SPRINGFIELD | Illinois is poised to become the 20th state to legalize marijuana for medical use.
Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign legislation as early as Thursday that will launch a four-year pilot program allowing people with certain illnesses to use cannabis grown and distributed in a tightly regulated system.
State Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, said he believes the new law will be the most restrictive in the nation and will quiet critics who oppose the move when they see that it is helping people.
“We carefully crafted the bill to ensure the program is regulated from the patients to the growers to the distributors,” Haine said Wednesday.
The House sponsor of the legislation, state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, would not comment Wednesday, saying he wanted to wait until the governor takes action.
Jim Champion, a U.S. Army veteran who lobbied for the law, said he’s been asked to attend a signing ceremony for the legislation.
“We’ve been working on this since 2005,” said Champion, a Somonauk resident who has multiple sclerosis. “I feel like they’ve been listening to me.”
Under the measure, it could take nearly a year for the program to get underway. State agencies first have to draft rules. Those rules are then reviewed by a special panel of lawmakers. If approved, the growing sites and dispensaries would have to be chosen.
Patients would first have to be certified by their doctor as having one of 30 ailments. The patients would then apply for a card from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The drug would have to be purchased at one of 60 state-regulated dispensing centers. The drug would be grown at 22 growing centers overseen by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
The measure would limit individuals from receiving more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana over a two-week period.
Champion said the wait for the program to get up and running is not a problem.
“It may seem like a long time, but when you’ve been waiting for seven or eight years, it will be worthwhile,” Champion said.
Haine praised the senators and representatives who voted for the legislation this spring.
“Its somewhat of an act of courage to say we’re not going to listen to the fears of others, but instead we’re going to listen to those who are suffering,” Haine said.
The legislation is House Bill 1.