A bill to allow Illinois residents to use marijuana to treat debilitating medical conditions is another step closer to becoming law.
Medical marijuana is up for its third reading in the Illinois House.
The bill would allow people suffering from specific medical conditions like cancer, multiple sclerosis, or HIV/AIDS, to use the drug if their doctors prescribes it. Patients would have to get the marijuana from specific sources regulated by the state government.
Close regulation is something that Dr. Joseph Kim, assistant professor of family & community medicine with SIU Health Care, says would be vital.
"There is some abuse potential with marijuana. Not as great as the other medicines but you still have some," said Kim.
The growing, buying and selling of the drug would be regulated by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health, and the Department of Financial & Professional Regulation.
And a 7 percent tax would be placed on its sale, which would make sure there are no additional costs to the state for the regulation.
But Adams County sheriff Brent Fischer has several concerns. Fischer says the bill would allow those licensed to use medical marijuana to have the equivalent of 14 joints a day. He says the potential is there to use what they need and sell the rest.
"If you don't use that amount in those required days then I could see that being a way of people selling the remaining amount on the streets. I think when you look at it is this adds to more regulation issues," said Fischer.
The state DUI provisions would not apply to the lawful consumption of marijuana by a qualified patient who is licensed to be in possession of marijuana under this act, unless they are impaired. And that's something Fischer says would be an issue.
How exactly would the state define "impaired?"
He says legalizing marijuana, although medical, would mean more regulations that could prove difficult for law enforcement.
Fischer says marijuana can be a "gateway drug," with the potential for users to begin trying street drugs.
Kim says that other medications, like opiates for cancer patients, seem to work well. Marijuana's primary uses are for weight gain in HIV/AIDS patients and pain management for cancer and multiple sclerosis patients.
"It has some advocacy and some evidence but it's not for every chronic pain out there and it's only been proven with specific cases like multiple sclerosis and cancer patients and AIDS with wasting syndrome so far," said Kim.
The Department of Public Health would issue a card to the patient or their primary care giver. The card allows them to possess up to two and a half ounces during a 14-day time period.
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