SPRINGFIELD, Ill. --
Well it has taken from 1978* but finally.............
A state Senate committee took a step toward legalizing the use of medical marijuana Wednesday, voting to let people with debilitating illnesses like AIDS or cancer use marijuana to ease their symptoms.
Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said the committee's 6-4 vote provides "a glimmer of hope" that the legislation eventually will pass the General Assembly. The legislation passed the Public Health Committee last year but was voted down by the Senate.
"We expect that this is the type of bill which is a long battle," Cullerton said. "This is about the patients. It's not about somebody abusing this law to illegally obtain marijuana."
The bill, which would make Illinois the 13th state to pass a medical marijuana law, heads to the Senate for a full vote.
The plan allows people with a doctor's permission to receive a state registry card allowing up to eight cannabis plants in their homes and 2 1/2 ounces of "usable cannabis." The proposal also carries tougher penalties than current law on possession charges.
Proponents of the measure claim marijuana is a legitimate alternative for people who can't get relief from traditional drugs.
Julie Falco, 42, who has had multiple sclerosis for two decades, said the side effects from prescription muscle relaxants and antidepressants left her debilitated.
"I didn't know where the MS began or ended and where the pharmaceuticals came in," the Chicagoan said. "It left me flattened, hopeless and depressed."
Falco claims bouts of depression and insomnia evaporated after eating three bite-sized marijuana-infused brownies a day.
But opponents fear that the plant's therapeutic approval would fuel its abuse.
The bill makes it tougher for authorities to enforce drug laws, said Laimutis Nargelenas, deputy director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.
"I think this bill has so many loopholes in it," Nargelenas said. "It would make it almost impossible for us, without providing all of these other safeguards, to deal with drug traffic that has nothing to do with the individuals that are sick."
*Technically, Illinois authorized medical marijuana in 1978. But implementation was left to the Public Health Department and it never took action, so the law has been in limbo.
The bill is SB2865.
On the Net: Go Here (http/www.ilga.gov/)