Medical marijuana measure fails in Illinois Senate

May 10, 2007

Stephanie Sievers, Quad Cities Online (IL)

A measure that would have allowed seriously ill people to legally use marijuana failed in the Illinois Senate Thursday.

Thirteen other states have legalized medical marijuana, but Illinois senators voted 29-22 against it. The sponsor, Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said he will continue to work to get some of his colleagues to change their minds.

"Apparently, it's not very hard in our society to obtain marijuana. So people who have these diseases are getting it. The only issue is whether or not we should have it be a crime for them to possess it," he said.

Advocates for medical marijuana say the drug helps ease the side effects of cancer chemotherapy, glaucoma, AIDS and many other diseases.

Under Sen. Cullerton's bill, people with debilitating medical conditions or their primary caregivers could legally possess up to 12 marijuana plants and 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana -- if its use was prescribed by physicians.

The idea makes sense to Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, who voted in favor of the bill.

"I don't think sick people should be treated like criminals. If a doctor believes that medical marijuana is more useful, less toxic and less expensive than a traditional, man-made medicine, than we ought to take a long, hard look at moving in that direction," he said.

Sen. Todd Sieben, R-Geneseo, was among those voting against the bill.

Sen. Dave Syverson of Rockford, the only Republican to vote "yes," said he's listened to the ongoing debate over medical marijuana for years and the proponents have finally convinced him.

"Each year, they come with more information and more (legislative) safeguards so I think this time, at least as far as I was concerned, they made a good enough case," he said.

Sen. Debbie Halvorson, D-Crete, who voted "present," said she thinks there are better alternatives.

"My concerns are the abuses. I would have loved to have helped people out, but there's got to be a medication out there that can help," she said. "It's illegal. You don't want it in the hands of the wrong people."

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