An Illinois House vote to legalize "medical marijuana" represents another triumph of empathy over evidence.
It's emblematic of this state's increasingly weird style of governance that our public officials continue to make it more costly and inconvenient to smoke cigarettes while moving toward making it less costly and less inconvenient to smoke marijuana.
That's not a vote in favor of cigarettes, a vile and unhealthy habit the practice of which is increasingly marginalized. But to attack the smoking of cigarettes while passing a law that will dramatically increase the smoking of marijuana is just foolish.
It's not yet a fait accompli. But the Illinois House last week approved a medical marijuana bill while the state Senate stands poised to do so. Gov. Pat Quinn has commented favorably on the proposal.
Backers of the legislation promote marijuana as a public health benefit. It's really the first step toward legalization.
Even if one takes supporters' words that this legislation is a medical benefit at face value, their arguments are foolishly shallow, indisputable evidence that they don't know what they don't know.
Among the opponents of medical marijuana are the American Medical Association, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the American Glaucoma Society, the American Cancer Society and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said scientific research on marijuana's purported health benefits is "just beginning." But it warns regular marijuana use can have "negative effects on short-term memory, concentration, attention span, motivation and problem solving, which clearly interfere with learning." Its list goes on and on.
Promoters of medical marijuana rely on claims by individuals who are extremely ill or suffering from a terminal disease that using marijuana eases their pain. It's hard to argue with their perception.
But it's easy to rebut the emotional claims of medical marijuana advocates. They portray individuals in those circumstances as susceptible to being dragged from their death beds to jail for smoking marijuana to ease their pain.
"We're turning granny into a criminal," said state Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat.
Really? Can Lang back up his assertions that police officers in Illinois are breaking down doors to arrest desperately ill people who smoke marijuana for pain management? Is there a state's attorney in Illinois so stupid or out of touch with reality to file a criminal case based on the facts that Lang describes?
Lang is, of course, one of the bigger buffoons in the General Assembly. But his arguments were swallowed whole by many of his colleagues.
State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, an Urbana Democrat, supports medical marijuana for that very insubstantial reason. People can only hope that local state Sens. Mike Frerichs, Chapin Rose and Jason Barickman demonstrate greater powers of discernment when the bill gets to the Senate.
Here's what will happen if this bill becomes law. Anyone over the age of 18 will be able to obtain a prescription for 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. That's 184 joints. What they don't use themselves, they will sell or give away to friends.
The talk about safeguards is nonsense. Medical providers in Illinois will hand out prescriptions like candy, just like they do in other states that have passed medical marijuana laws. In Washington state, the longer the prescription is written, the greater the fee that is charged.
This will be like the old days of Prohibition, when liquor was supposed to be illegal unless, of course, one had a prescription to consume it for "medical" reasons.
Ironically, the Prohibition argument represents the best case that can be made for legalizing marijuana. The war on drugs is failing. The better approach, however, is not to legalize marijuana, but to decriminalize use by making it a fine-only offense.
Our society does not need more intoxicants. Alcohol consumption is a public health scourge. Adding medical marijuana to our already overdosed society will only create more costly misery.