Will Medical Marijuana Pass the Illinois House?

If Lou Lang’s bill passes the House, the state could have therapeutic pot. Does it go too far?

medical marijuana illinois

John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune

Medical marijuana plants being grown in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Nov. 30, 2012

Illinois politicians have been running medical marijuana up the flagpole for years—in 2010, Claire Thompson wrote a lengthy piece on its history in the state for the Reader, after Skokie state rep Lou Lang sponsored a bill for the first time after supporting many of them:

Lang says he’s talked about it with each of the other 117 representatives. “Ninety-two of them have looked me in the eye and said, ‘This is a great bill. I hope you pass it.’” he says. “But only 52 have said they’ll vote for it. They come up with all kinds of excuses. When you have elected officials who choose to vote against their own conscience for political reasons, that’s a recipe for bad politics.”

Lang got 53 votes against 59, and the battle continued. Now, a couple years later, Lang says he’s a mere “one or two” votes shy of passing it, which underlines how long these swings can take—almost two and a half years for seven votes. He’s still got his critics:

The 2.5 ounces allowed over a 14-day period equates to about 183 joints, or 13 per day, said Anita Bedell, executive director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems.

“That’s a huge amount. If they don’t use it all, what are you going to do with it? Are they going to sell it? Give it to their friends?” she said.

That would be stretching your pot pretty far: 2.5 ounces is 71 grams. A “slender ‘matchstick’ type of marijuana cigarette” is .34 grams (205 joints); a typical a roll-your-own .5 grams (142 joints); and a cigarette-sized joint .90 grams (79 joints). It’s more useful to look at how many grams the typical patient uses, but there’s a wide variance, according to a 2007 piece in the Canadian Medical Association Journal:

Under current medical marijuana rules, doctors authorize the amount of marijuana they and their patients feel is necessary. However, several who have recommended above 5 g per day were recently telephoned by a Health Canada medical marijuana program officer, and advised that the department recommends no more than 1–3 g per day, irrespective of the medical condition or means of consumption (inhaled, ingested or both). Health Canada also posted that recommendation on its Web site in October 2006, after officials noted the number of authorized users prescribed at more than 5 g per day had increased to 15% in June, 2006 from 10% a year earlier.

The lower 1–3-g dose recommendation stems from “an examination of current available evidence on daily amounts,” stated unnamed officials in an email exchange coordinated by Health Canada spokesperson, Renée Bergeron. Asked to provide the scientific basis for the dose recommendations, the officials cited 3 studies and “preliminary Canadian research findings.”

[snip]

Medicinal marijuana users are frustrated by the latest twist. Tony Adams of Victoria, BC, is “furious” about the government’s failure to respond to his letters regarding dosage reductions. Adams, 60, who suffers from degenerative disc disease and severe arthritis, was licensed for 7 g per day. He was seeking a boost to 10 g to use as tea, but got approval for 5 g.

So 2.5 grams ounces is anywhere from excessive to insufficient, but in the ballpark of typical use. The science is very much in its infancy. 

Overall, Illinois’s bill would be on the conservative side. 2.5 grams ounces per two weeks is pretty typical, the same as Arizona. It would only be applicable to a strict set of conditions, from HIV/AIDS, cancer, and glaucoma to more obscure conditions like nail-patella syndrome and the extremely painful CRPS. The Department of Public Health has discretion to add “debilitating” conditions, but there’s no general allowance for chronic pain. The marijuana would have to come from an in-state source, and it would be taxed at seven percent, with anything over the cost of implementation going to “fund crime prevention programs,” in a nod to the bill’s opponents.

 

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