Some clergy support Illinois medical marijuana bill

April 19, 2007

Sheila Smith, Herald-Review (IL)

DECATUR - Some clergy are supporting the medical use of marijuana. This week, at least 50 religious leaders throughout the state have been waiting to find out what happens to the medical marijuana bill waiting to be debated in the state Senate. No action has been taken this week.

Beverly Dondeville, a parish nurse at Boiling Springs Church of God, is the only person from the Decatur area to sign her name on a petition endorsing the bill.

"Since I deal with people all the time who are in pain because of a severe terminal illness, I believe in whatever can help relieve their pain," she said. "But I also realize you have to look at where it comes from, the safety of it, and would like to see more studies on it."

Her minister, the Rev. Keith Jenkins of Boiling Springs Church, said he does not support the legislation.

State Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago introduced the medical marijuana bill, SB650. Similar laws have been enacted in 12 states.

Clergy from many denominations have endorsed the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative's principle that states: "Licensed medical practitioners shouldn't be punished for recommending the medical use of marijuana to seriously ill patients, and seriously ill patients should not be subject to criminal sanctions for using marijuana if the patients medical practitioners have told them that such use is likely to be beneficial."

"The moral choice on this issue is clear," said Charles Thomas, executive director of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, which is coordinating the religious lobbying efforts. "We pray that the senators will heed this call for compassion."

Sheila Smith can be reached at or 421-7963.

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