Marijuana bill on doorstep
Following in the footsteps of other states before it, Illinois is likely to begin experimenting with medical marijuana.
The Land of Lincoln is on the brink of becoming the 19th state to legalize marijuana for medical use.
The Illinois House of Representatives has already approved the legislation, an Illinois Senate committee has sent the bill to the full Senate and Gov. Pat Quinn is waiting for the opportunity to affix his name to this signature legislation.
Quinn hasn't formally endorsed medical marijuana; a spokesman said he's "open-minded" on the issue. Given his sometime world view of being a rebel without a clue, it's hard to imagine Quinn not signing a bill that purports to strike a blow for medically suffering little guys against a heartless establishment.
Supporters of the legislation are selling this bill in the most effective possible way, touting it as providing relief to people who are suffering. In her endorsement, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon said it will help "many patients who are terminally ill."
That, in our view, is a fairy tale. It's not that medical marijuana won't provide relief, even perceived relief, to some people who are ill. Who could be against that?
The problem is that this legislation, despite protests to the contrary, will open the door to widespread abuse. That's been the experience in other states, which is why the legislative sponsors insist their safeguards will prevent what's happened in other states from happening in Illinois.
In a recent statement, the legislation's sponsors, state Rep. Lou Lang and state Sen. Bill Haine, acknowledged the disasters that are taking place "in states like California and Colorado," where they say "consumers have found ways to gain legal access to marijuana for recreational use instead of legitimate medical illness." These consumers, they say, have bought "large quantities of marijuana" and have been "selling it on the streets or black market, adding to criminal activity and endangering lives and neighborhoods."
That won't happen here, they contend, because the state's regulatory rules will be bulletproof.
It's our view that they will be as bulletproof as the state's regulations for preventing underage drinking. People can go down to the University of Illinois campus on any Friday or Saturday night when school is in session and see how well that's working.
Once medical marijuana is in full bloom here, perhaps we can return to the good old days of Hash Wednesday on the UI Quad, marijuana for medical use only of course, trumping the UI's new smoke-free campus edict. It'll be a battle of the politically correct fads of the day.
The fact is that marijuana isn't really the medical panacea that its promoters claim. Perhaps that's why Lang and Haine describe medical marijuana as a "basic human right."
"Patients using medical marijuana should not be treated any differently from those who use prescription drugs obtained from a pharmacy," they assert.
Really? Do they realize that prescription medications bought from a pharmacy must be approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, and that the FDA has not approved medical marijuana because it lacks scientific evidence of its medical value?
Unfortunately, few are willing to be on the wrong side of the empathy gap.
If this bill is passed, legitimately sick people will get the marijuana they seek, although it's hard to imagine they couldn't get it anyway. But the door will open to much more widespread use and abuse of marijuana that will cause great harm.
It won't come in the form of the cartoonish hysteria of "Reefer Madness," the decades-old film that exaggerated the effects of marijuana, but it will come, and many individuals and society as a whole will pay dearly for it.