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by Americans for Safe Access
Nearly 40 percent of U.S. population lives in states that have legalized medical marijuana
SPRINGFIELD, IL – – Governor Pat Quinn signed House Bill 1 into law today, making Illinois the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana. Nearly 40 percent of people in the U.S. now live in states that have adopted such laws.
The Illinois “Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program” Act creates a framework to protect physicians and certain qualified medical marijuana patients from arrest and prosecution. HB1 was passed 35-21 by the Illinois House in April, and 61-57 by the Senate in May. HB1, which is scheduled to sunset in four years, was called one of the most restrictive laws in the country by its Senate sponsor Bill Haine (D-Alton). The new law is set to take effect on January 1, 2014.
HB1 allows patients with one of 33 “debilitating medical conditions,” such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV to obtain approval from a physician to use medical marijuana. The law entitles qualifying patients to possess 2.5 ounces for a 2-week period. Patients will not be able to cultivate the marijuana themselves, contrary to most state laws, but they will eventually be able to obtain it from one of the state’s 60 “registered dispensing organizations,” which will be supplied by 22 “licensed cultivation centers.” HB1 also taxes the sale of medical marijuana at 7 percent.
“Patients applaud the Illinois legislature and Governor Quinn for advancing medical marijuana in Illinois,” said Mike Liszewski, Policy Director with Americans for Safe Access, the country’s leading medical marijuana patient advocacy group. “From experience in other states, however, we know that the much more difficult work of implementation lies ahead. We look forward to working with the governor’s administration and others to facilitate the smoothest and most timely implementation possible.”
Patient advocates consider HB1 an important first step, but also admit there are a number of concerns they wish to address with follow-up legislation. Chief among the concerns is that the bill will continue to criminalize patients growing their own medicine, a right afforded to qualified patients in three-quarters of the country’s medical marijuana states. It’s expected that the cost of obtaining marijuana from a “dispensing organization” will be prohibitively expensive for thousands of patients. HB1 also fails to establish an affirmative defense for patients if they’re arrested, mandates fingerprinting and criminal background checks for patients, and gives police unfettered access to their records.
Nearly 250 Illinois physicians pledged their support in April for legalizing medical marijuana in the state, and a Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll released in February, showed that more than 63 percent of Illinois voters support the legalization of medical marijuana. Less than a month ago, Governor Maggie Hassan signed HB573 into law, making New Hampshire the 19th medical marijuana state. More than 120 million people now live in the two-fifths of the country’s states that have adopted medical marijuana laws.
* Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.
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