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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Medical marijuana patients still in for a wait
by Matt Simonette
2014-01-13

This article shared 3837 times since Mon Jan 13, 2014
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Legislation allowing for the use of medical marijuana in Illinois took effect Jan. 1, which many HIV/AIDS advocacy groups see as good news, but the state has yet to iron out many specific plans for the law's full implementation. Consequently, marijuana won't be available for patient use until well into 2014 or later, according to state officials.

"We ask that people be patient," said Melaney Arnold, spokesperson for Illinois Department of Public Health. "We understand that some people are happy that this passed, so we are trying to do it in the most expeditious manner possible."

Arnold added that the state "wants to make sure that we are being transparent and responsible."

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, sponsored by state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, and state Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, on Aug. 1, 2013.

The legislation, which currently is set to expire in four years, is some of the most restrictive medical marijuana legislation in the country, placing extremely tight controls on cultivation centers and dispensaries. Users will not be allowed to grow their own plants.

Numerous studies have shown that using marijuana can help persons with HIV/AIDS ease their pain and cope with side effects from their medications, said Ramon Gardenhire, Government Policy Director for AIDS Foundation of Chicago. Nevertheless, he added, the legislation required significant logistical planning and compromises just to be acceptable for legislators.

"The saying goes, the hallmark of good legislation is that nobody is completely happy," Gardenhire said. "Whenever you do something innovative, it takes a long time to see the fruits of that labor."

Ann Fisher, executive director of AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, said the law would bring relief for many of her agency's clients and "they also can be free of the stigma of having to use marijuana in the shadows."

She said that the state is proceeding extremely cautiously because so many lawmakers felt their credibility was at stake. "Lou Lang wanted this to be medical marijuana, not 'medical marijuana.' This is the bill we could get right now."

Dan Linn, executive director of Illinois NORML, which advocates for the legalization of marijuana, said his organization is trying to help craft emergency legislation that would be able to provide some individuals with relief in the short-term.

"It's disappointing that it'll take so long, when there are people who can actually get some relief from having this available," Linn said.

He questioned why the state is "dragging its feet" on the licensing aspects of the process. "It's not like they have to reinvent the wheel with that, since there have been 20 other states that did it before them."

But Linn said the legislation was a good first step, and that Illinois NORML is continuing to advocate for legalization for recreational use.

"The first time a medical marijuana bill was brought up, it was sponsored was by [openly gay] state Rep. Larry McKeon, and it never made it out of committee," Linn said.


This article shared 3837 times since Mon Jan 13, 2014
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