Bummer of a bill signing
Medical marijuana will soon be a reality in Illinois.
Gov. Pat Quinn Thursday signed medical marijuana legislation that purports to allow those (and only those) with serious illnesses to use the drug for pain management.
Good luck with that. The bill, which takes effect on Jan. 1, sets out the rules governing a four-year experiment that represents a revolutionary change in Illinois public policy. In keeping with the claims proponents of this change made, Quinn signed the bill at the University of Chicago, the intent apparently being to dress up the action as a well-thought- out approach that is consistent with rigorous scientific standards.
Unfortunately, Quinn's action marks another example of emotion trumping logic, in this case the claim that marijuana is a medically necessary pain reliever for those unfortunate people suffering from a variety of serious illness.
There is scant medical evidence for such a theory. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a host of medical groups, including the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the American Glaucoma Society, emphatically reject that view.
But legislators, including state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson of Urbana and state Sen. Mike Frerichs of Champaign, claim to know better. Indeed, a majority of both the Illinois House and Senate and now Gov. Quinn have embraced two fallacious claims, the first being that marijuana serves a legitimate medical purpose and the second being that seriously and terminally ill people now using marijuana are being terrorized by the threat of arrest.
It's hard to forget the ludicrous claim made by state Rep. Lou Lang in support of medical marijuana legislation he sponsored.
"We're turning granny into a criminal," he told his fellow legislators.
It's that sort of foolish and false rhetoric that apparently drives action in Illinois government. How many grandmas can Lang cite as victims of the kind of mindless prosecution he describes?
There is no shortage of sick people who swear by the use of marijuana as a means of coping with their illnesses. There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of their claims, but scientists, nonetheless, dispute their accuracy.
There is nothing new about people in pain, whatever the cause, using a variety of intoxicants for self-medication. Indeed, it's a common practice, even if it's not a medically approved one.
If that's all that would be going on under this bill, medical marijuana wouldn't pose much, if any, problem. But the reality is that this law will provide an outlet for the legal sale of marijuana and that medical marijuana, like alcohol, will eventually end up in the hands of those for whom it is not intended.
Our legislators, of course, claim to have drafted legislation that is impervious to abuse. They assert that it has safeguards on top of safeguards, and that there is absolutely nothing to worry about. They say this while, at the same time, acknowledging that medical marijuana laws in other states have produced disastrous results.
But these are the same men and women who are the architects of Illinois' financial disaster; they have no credibility.
Medical marijuana backers insist the skeptics are wrong; now everyone will have a chance to find out. Let's hope the results of this experiment are judged with less emotion and more careful analysis than the legislative process that gave rise to it.