Illinois Senate votes down medical marijuana bill

May 10, 2007

Erik Potter, St. Louis Post Dispatch

Hopes of legalizing medical marijuana in Illinois have gone up in smoke — for now.

The Illinois Senate, by a narrow 22-29 vote, turned down a bill that would have allowed doctors to prescribe the drug to patients suffering from painful, debilitating conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis or epilepsy.

"This is disappointing," said Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, the sponsor of the bill. "I don't think people realize how popular this is in their districts. This is overwhelmingly supported."

Only one Republican, Sen.

Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, voted for the bill, while 21 of the 37 Democrats voted for it.

"(This bill) relies on a false premise. It treats marijuana as a medicine," said Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. "We don't know what the long-term effects of smoking marijuana, in whatever quantities to be allowed under this bill, may be, in which case, I think calling this a medicine is very much a misnomer."

Much of the testimony in committee and debate on the Senate floor revolved around personal stories of chronically ill patients who illegally use marijuana to relieve their pain.

"I don't think sick people should be treated like criminals," said Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-Moline. "This is a choice a doctor ought to have" if there's demonstrated benefits of the drug for patients.

Cullerton said he would keep working to get a similar bill passed before the Senate is scheduled to adjourn at the end of the month. Only 29 senators — less than half — voted against the bill. Persuading the four senators who voted present and the four who did not vote would give Cullerton the 30 votes needed for the bill to pass.

Thirteen other states have passed similar medical marijuana laws, including Minnesota and, most recently, New Mexico.

The bill is SB650.

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