UPDATE: The Illinois House passed HB1, the medical marijuana bill, by a vote of 61-57 on Wednesday afternoon. This article was written before the vote on April 17 in the House.
Patients suffering from diseases such as multiple sclerosis, cancer and Crohn’s disease can be in extreme physical discomfort and pain. Vicodin, OxyContin and morphine don’t sooth patients as well as marijuana.
In support of those suffering, Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, and supporters held a press conference at the Capitol, April 9. Lang has proposed a bill with new provisions to legalize medicinal marijuana.
Lang proposed the bill four years ago and said since then he has added new provisions that will make legislators and law enforcement more comfortable with the idea. He said a year ago he had support from most of his peers but they would not vote for it.
Lang said in an interview with Illinois Times that most legislators are questioning whether or not they can vote for the bill and how their vote affects their political careers.
“Very few of them are asking the details of the bill. There are some, but this has been mostly a political calculation.”
The bill has changed since Lang first tried to get it passed and includes what Lang thinks are stronger regulations. Patients will not be allowed to grow their own marijuana, there will be regulations on growers and dispensaries, patients will have to prove they have one of 33 medical conditions to be considered for the drug and cities and landlords will have a say where the product is grown and used.
Paul Bachmann, a multiple sclerosis patient from Plano, said for those who are suffering it’s more than a matter of politics. Instead, it’s a matter of being able to live life comfortably or being dependent on medications and having a life consumed by doctors and hospital visits.
“I wasn’t only a prisoner to my own body, but a prisoner to all these prescription drugs they kept giving me,” said Bachmann.
He said he has seen how taking the combinations of strong prescription drugs leave patients feeling weak and zombie-like. He said using medical marijuana simply allows patients to not be consumed by medicine and pain.
“How much more does our state want us to consume, how much longer do we have to be consumed, how much longer are we going to have to wait until we can get the relief we need?” he said.
Lang said 68 to 85 percent of people in Illinois support medical marijuana.
He added that many people are already using marijuana to treat their symptoms, but the treatment is both illegal and not under a doctor’s care. As a result, he said, people who are trying to seek out a better way of life have been criminalized.
“I do feel like less than a person, I feel like a criminal because these are things I fought against in the military,” said Jim Champion of Somonauk, a veteran and father with advanced multiple sclerosis. “I don’t want my money going to gangs or anything like that, or groups that target police. I want my money going to a legitimate place, but unfortunately with it being illegal like it is we are forced into the back alleys and forced into the black market.”
Champion said he hopes the bill will create safer regulations and allow patients to access a better quality product. He said it’s not about trying to get some sort of fix but patients are simply looking for pain relief.
On April 10, the bill was placed on the House calendar for a third reading. Lang said he expects to have a vote on the bill within the next week and he is determined to get the bill passed.
“We’ve had more drug deaths from overdoses in this country from things like OxyContin and Vicodin than we’ve had traffic deaths in this country,” Lang said. “When you see that and when you see that people are just trying to get a better quality of life, how do you in good conscience turn these people down? I can’t. I pledge to you that if I don’t pass this now I’m going to get it sometime. This is going to become law.”
Contact Jacqueline Muhammad at firstname.lastname@example.org.