SPRINGFIELD — A bill that supporters said would tightly restrict medical marijuana use during a four-year pilot program was approved 61-57 in the Illinois House on Wednesday.
It's the first time the House has approved the controversial legislation which now moves over to the Senate.
Earlier Wednesday, Gov. Pat Quinn would say only that he is "open-minded" on the issue.
Among East Central Illinois lawmakers, only Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, voted for the measure. All other area representatives — Reps. Chad Hays, R-Catlin; Josh Harms, R-Watseka; Adam Brown, R-Champaign; Bill Mitchell, R-Decatur; and Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville — voted no.
"I'm concerned that this is going to make it even more of a gateway drug for the youth of Illinois," Brown said. "Every other state that has instituted medical marijuana, I think that it has become much more publicly available to the detriment of society.
"It's just a bad bill as far as I'm concerned. I'm strongly against making drugs more accessible to the general public."
Although most downstaters voted against the legislation, a number of suburban Republicans who previously had voted no on the issue, switched their votes on Wednesday.
Rep. JoAnn Osmond, R-Gurnee, her voice cracking with emotion, told of friends with crippling illnesses. One, with terminal cancer, had come to live in her home.
"I would not let him have marijuana in the house," she said. "He never asked — only once — if he could have marijuana in the house and I said no. Sometimes I regret that because I know that it might have helped him."
A constituent, she said, told her the only time he has relief from pain "is when he sends his wife out to purchase marijuana illegally and have it in a brownie or some other way. That's the only time that he feels he can function. He can get up and actually know where he is, because the drugs that he is on just make his head not function right."
The sponsor of the bill (HB 1), Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, said that sales of medical marijuana in Illinois would be tightly regulated and "that every ounce of medical marijuana would be tracked."
Users would have to suffer from one of 33 disabilities listed in the law, such as cancer, muscular dystrophy, glaucoma and AIDS, and obtain a prescription from a physician with which they had had an ongoing relationship. The marijuana, which could only be sold at licensed dispensaries, would be limited to 2.5 ounces every 14 days.
"Our goal here is simple, to provide quality of life for people with a product that can't hurt them. Today the products they are taking are hurting them, they're killing them, they're becoming addicted to them," Lang said.
If the legislation passes the Senate and is signed by Quinn, Illinois would become the 18th state to allow some level of medical marijuana use.