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The states in blue represent the states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana still a year away in Illinois after legalization

by Sepideh Nia
May 21, 2013

marijuana disease

Sepideh Nia/MEDILL. List for House Bill 1.

List of debilitating medical conditions allowing the use of medical marijuana.    

Medical marijuana supporters are anxiously waiting for Gov. Quinn to sign House Bill 1. The bill legalizes the medical use of cannabis for people suffering from at least 40 debilitating conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

The bill would allow doctors with an ongoing, bona fide relationship with a patient to recommend it, said Dan Riffle, deputy director of government relations at the Marijuana Policy Project. He said the governor has been open-minded about the bill.   

He said patients wouldn’t be able to legally acquire medical cannabis for at least another year to give time to finalize legislation and create dispensaries.

If signed, the bill would allow for 22 marijuana cultivators and 60 dispensaries in the state of Illinois, said Riffle. Your corner drug store can't provide meidcal marijuana

House Bill 1 passed in the Illinois Senate on Friday, passed by a vote of 35-21. The bill needed 30 votes to pass.

“This is a major victory for patients throughout Illinois,” said Riffle.

“Hopefully the governor will sign it,” said Dr. Christopher Fichtner, a psychiatrist who served as the state mental health director for Illinois from 2003 to 2005 and author of “Cannabinomics: the Marijuana Policy Tipping Point. “Illinois has been working on this really actively for the better of 10 years now.”

Fichtner lives in California now, a state with legal medical marijuana laws. He said he has had a few patients who have reported benefits from the use of medical cannabis.  

“Not only do they report benefit from it but, when they use it, that’s their first line of treatment for chronic forms of pain,” he said.  “Many patients reduce their narcotics use. They use narcotics much more sparingly.”

Chicago resident, Darcy Stephens, 60, a trainer at a law firm said she supports the medical use of marijuana. A friend, who is HIV positive, has been using medical marijuana in Colorado, she said.

Other people on the streets of Chicago spoke in favor of the bill.

“I think it’s a good thing,” said Johnathan Winterberg, 31, a delivery driver in Chicago.  “If you have an illness you’re dying from, why should we stop you from pain relief?”

Andrew Maurer, 23, a financial analyst, recently moved to Chicago from Vancouver and said that he thinks marijuana should be legal for everyone, not just people who have debilitating conditions.

“People should have the right to do what they want with their own bodies,” said Maurer.  “As long as it doesn’t harm other people.”

Maurer said the legalization of medical marijuana may be the first step to fully legalizing the use of cannabis.

“There’s been a lot of perpetuation of this idea that the people who are medical cannabis patients are the people who are associated with the criminal sector,” Fichtner said.

“Pain should not be controversial,” said Fichtner. “Medical marijuana is quite capable of going head to head with medicines that have been approved by the FDA.”