Will Pat Quinn Legalize Medical Marijuana in Illinois?

The beleaguered governor doesn’t have a lot to lose by implementing the state’s strict bill, which just passed the Senate.

Photo: John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune

Illinois’s medical-marijuana bill, which Lou Lang has been patiently working through the legislature for years, passed the Senate today by a vote of 35-21 after barely scraping through the House. All that’s left is the signature of Pat Quinn, whose only word on the subject is that he’s “open-minded” on it. Will the governor sign it or shoot it down? The former seems more likely.

1. It polls well:

A total of 63.3 percent either strongly favored or favored making medical use of marijuana legal. There were 40.0 percent in the “strongly favor” and 23.3 percent in the “favor” category. This contrasted with a combined total of 32.1 percent who were opposed or strongly opposed, with 25.3 percent strongly opposed and 6.8 percent opposed.

2. Momentum is in its favor:

In fact, a national poll last month by the Pew Research Center shows that, for the first time in more than 40 years of the firm’s polling, a majority of American adults (52 percent to 45 percent) support legalizing marijuana for recreational use. And by a margin of 72 percent to 23 percent, they believe that federal efforts to prohibit pot “cost more than they are worth,” according to the poll.

3. It’s not just that momentum is running towards marijuana; it’s also starting to look more appealing for medical pain relief as prescription opioids and depressants have become more prevalent in recent years:

Drug overdose deaths increased for the 11th consecutive year in 2010, according to an analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings are published today in a research letter, “Pharmaceutical Overdose Deaths, United States, 2010,” in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

CDC’s analysis shows that 38,329 people died from a drug overdose in the United States in 2010, up from 37,004 deaths in 2009. This continues the steady rise in overdose deaths seen over the past 11 years, starting with 16,849 deaths in 1999. Overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics have shown a similar increase. Starting with 4,030 deaths in 1999, the number of deaths increased to 15,597 in 2009 and 16,651 in 2010.

This came up in the Senate debate.

4. Quinn could stand to do better in Chicagoland; he can’t really do much worse everywhere else.

5. Lisa Madigan’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

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