SPRINGFIELD — Legislation that would allow people with serious illnesses to use marijuana failed to earn a majority vote in the Illinois House Wednesday.
State Rep. Lou Lang, the sponsor, used a parliamentary tactic to keep the proposal alive, possibly for a future vote.
Fifty-three House members voted for the legislation, out of 60 needed for passage. The Skokie Democrat said some “fence-sitters” voted against the idea when they saw it would fail. He said he only needed two more votes.
“This is not about drugs, this is not about marijuana,” Lang said about his measure. “It’s about healthcare.”
The legislation would allow for 59 not-for-profit marijuana dispensaries, one for every Senate district in the state. The program would expire after three years, forcing lawmakers to examine whether it was working properly.
The proposal was a more restrictive version of similar legislation that previously fallen short in the House. Supporters were hopeful it would muster enough votes after House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, came out in support of the concept late last month.
Some lawmakers who voted “no” took issue with the fact that federal law still classifies marijuana as having no acceptable medical use.
“We have processes for making medicines legal in this country, processes for approval, and if we go through those, that will work,” said state Rep. Richard Morthland, R-Cordova.
State Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, added, “It needs to be from a licensed physician to a licensed pharmacist like any other drug. I don’t know why on Earth we’d create a brand new system that’s different from every drug category out there.”
Others were concerned with the potential for the drug’s abuse.
“This bill would make marijuana more easily accessible for folks in the public, and I was afraid that it could easily be abused,” said state Rep. Adam Brown, R-Decatur.
State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, agreed.
“My concern is the abuse and those who would be misled and have what’s supposed to be their medical marijuana taken from them by others,” Brady said.
State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, also said evidence points to possible abuse.
“If someone is prescribed medical marijuana they could share it with their significant other or things like that,” Mitchell said.
Earlier in the day, Gov. Pat Quinn told reporters he hadn’t made up his mind on whether he would sign the legislation, even if it were to land on his desk.
“I am sympathetic to veterans in particular who are afflicted with illness that they want to assuage,” Quinn said. “I’m going to follow the debate.”
The legislation is House Bill 30.