Politics Trump Public Opinion, Medicine in Illinois Medical Marijuana Debate

(Springfield, IL) — The Illinois General Assembly is currently debating the merit of adding itself to the ranks of 13 states that permit doctor-prescribed medical marijuana for seriously and terminally ill patients.

If the merit of medical marijuana and public support are the only considerations, the legislature will approve

State Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton) at a recent press conference arguing in favor of doctor-prescribed medical marijuana

State Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton) at a recent press conference arguing in favor of doctor-prescribed medical marijuana

the legislation—of which I am the chief sponsor in the House and of which Senator Bill Haine is the Senate sponsor. If politics and demagoguery dominate, lawmakers will reject the idea. Unfortunately, politics and demagoguery currently have the upper hand.

Numerous medical organizations support legal medical marijuana access for the seriously ill, including the American Public Health Association, the American Nurses Association, the Illinois Nurses Association, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Studies have shown, in the case of chemotherapy patients, that marijuana relieves debilitating symptoms including nausea, appetite loss, and severe pain. It has been shown to increase the chances that HIV/AIDs and hepatitis C patients will stay on life-saving medications.

And marijuana is safe. It has never caused a single medically documented overdose death — unlike Tylenol, which causes about 500 overdose deaths a year in the U.S. alone.

Many otherwise illegal substances, such as Oxycontin and morphine, can legally be prescribed by doctors. The same should be true for marijuana, which is less dangerous and addictive than either of these substances.

Moreover, many of the legal alternatives proposed by opponents of medical marijuana are too expensive, too addictive, and have too many side effects to be good medicine for all patients.

Beyond the medical value, Medical marijuana is also a popular issue in Illinois.

Illinois residents favor allowing seriously and terminally ill patients to use marijuana for medical purposes by a 68-27 percent margin according to a new poll. The poll, by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, Inc. surveyed 625 randomly selected registered Illinois voters between Feb. 9 and Feb. 16.

Support is strong across the state. Voter support range from 70 percent in Chicago to 65 percent in downstate regions. And the use of medical marijuana by seriously ill patients has majority voter support among Republicans, Independents, and Democrats alike.

Ultimately, the decision of what medicine is best for an illness should be left up to the patient and the doctor, not to police and prosecutors. The choice of Illinois lawmakers is simple: legalize medical marijuana.

Lou Lang

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Illinois College Scholarship for Students with “B” or Better Grades Pushed at University of Illinois

(Champaign, IL) — If middle-class students earn “B” or better grade averages, should their hard-work make

State Rep. Lou Lang and University of Illinois students at their April 15th town hall meeting.

State Rep. Lou Lang and University of Illinois students at their April 15th town hall meeting.

the eligible for a state of Illinois scholarship? I do.

On April 15, I had the opportunity to attend a town hall meeting with students at the University of Illinois to discuss my legislation, House Bill 79, that would provide a scholarship to full-time Illinois college students at public or private Illinois schools who earn a “B” grade average or better among other qualifications.

Unsurprisingly, the students agree. And undoubtedly there parents agree too. At the U of I, 4 year in-state tuition and fees total $39,528.

Working class students and families need some help to cover costs like these. And if a student earns a “B” or better, he or she deserves it.

The legislation’s other sponsors include State Representatives: Mike Boland, Linda Chapa LaVia, Luis Arroyo, Elizabeth Hernandez, Edward Acevedo and Susana Mendoza.

It’s an idea whose time has come.

Lou Lang

TV Ad Campaign Boosts Illinois Medical Marijuana Bill

With a Senate floor vote on medical marijuana legislation expected by the end of the month, supporters are airing a pair of TV commercials in which Illinois patients tell their stories.

State Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton)

State Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton)

The spots, introduced at a Springfield press conference today, have begun airing in Chicago, Peoria, Decatur, Springfield, and Champaign.

The ads feature Lucie Macfarlane of Joliet and Lisa Lange Van Camp of Lindenhurst both of whom are suffering from debilitating illnesses.

This legislation, Senate Bill 1381, sponsored by former three-term state’s attorney State Senators Bill Haine (D-Alton), Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), and Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston) would allow seriously ill patients with certain debilitating conditions to use medical marijuana upon the recommendation of their physicians. The Senate Public Health Committee passed SB 1381 with a 6-2 vote.

The House Human Services Committee approved a companion bill — House Bill 2514 — on March 4. The House sponsors include, myself, Lou Lang, Angelo Saviano (R-Elmwood Park), Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood), Cythnthia Soto (D-Chicago), Deborah Mell (D-Chicago), and Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Chicago).

Both bills are now poised for a full vote on the floor of their respective chambers, but they do not yet have enough committed “yes” votes to be sent to the governor for approval. The House has never voted on a modern medical marijuana bill before, and a similar bill was narrowly defeated in the Senate two years ago.

Illinois could very well become the 14th state to enact an effective medical marijuana law. But Illinois residents need to speak up and contact their local legislators. More than 68% of Illinois voters support this legislation, according to a recent poll. Lawmakers need to hear their actual voices.

As chief sponsor of the House bill, I intend to continue to lobby my fellow lawmakers vigorously. Senator Haine will continue to push his fellow senators. But these legislators must also hear from their constituents for the final act of persuasion.

Privately, a majority of lawmakers say they favor the bill. Publicly, a majority will vote against the bill unless they hear from their constituents.

Lou Lang