Newly proposed law in Illinois allows for medical marijuana

by Lewis Gainor on April 28, 2011

Illinois Medical Marijuana

Illinois lawmakers find themselves at the front of the legalization of marijuana movement this year because newly proposed legislation would allow use of medicinal marijuana. Currently, Illinois House of Representatives is considering a bill sponsored by Democrat Lou Lang from Skokie, HB 30.

If passed, the new law would be called the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. The law would allow people with chronic and terminal illnesses to possess cannabis legally for purposes of treating the symptoms of a debilitating medical condition.

A person desiring to possess cannabis for this purpose must register for an identification card issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The law would place a restriction on the amount of cannabis that could be possessed. The proposed law says that a person can only possess an “adequate supply.” The law defines an adequate supply to be no more than “2.5 ounces of usable cannabis during a period of 14 days and that is derived solely from an intrastate source.” 2.5 ounces is roughly 70 grams.

Under the law that is in effect today, possession of cannabis 70 grams is a Class 4 felony offense punishable by 1-3 years in the Department of Corrections. 720 ILCS 550/4(d).

Note that the law requires that the cannabis must be from within the state of Illinois. The purpose of this requirement is to allow state regulators to control cannabis locally.

If a person desires more than 2.5 ounces, he or she must obtain a written waiver from a physician indicating that 2.5 ounces is insufficient to treat the symptoms of that person’s debilitating medical condition.

Not all health conditions will qualify a person to use medicinal marijuana in Illinois. A person must have a physician say that he or she is suffering from a qualifying debilitating medical condition.

The law defines a “debilitating medical condition” in the following way:

“Debilitating medical condition” means one or more of the following:

(1) cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, or the treatment of these conditions:

(2) a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characteristic of multiple sclerosis;

(3) a debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces intractable pain, which is severe, debilitating pain that did not respond to other reasonable medical efforts for a reasonable period of time, including cases where other treatment options produced serious side effects;

(4) a debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces severe, debilitating nausea that did not respond to other reasonable medical efforts for a reasonable period of time, including cases where other treatment options produced serious side effects; or

(5) any other debilitating medical condition or its treatment added by the Department, as provided for in subsection (d) of Section 10.

The criminal penalties against possession of cannabis will remain the same. That means that for everyone else, possession of cannabis is still a criminal offense.

However, a person who holds a valid registry identification card has a defense. The way the law is written right now, a person is legally authorized to possess cannabis if the cannabis is regulated by the Illinois Controlled Substances Act. See 720 ILCS 550/16.1. If the new law passes, it will also be a defense if the person possesses a registry identification card pursuant to the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program.

The law has yet to pass the House, but it appears to be gaining momentum.

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