IL: County Commissioner Pushing Pot Legalization Has Medical Marijuana Card

Photo Credit: Hal Dardick

A Cook County commissioner who’s pushing to legalize recreational marijuana says he uses pot regularly to treat a medical condition.

John Fritchey received his medical cannabis card from the state in May 2017 and smokes a concentrated form of the drug, much like an e-cigarette, he recently told the Chicago Tribune. The commissioner said he only smokes at night, but not every day and not when he’s interacting with the public.

The Chicago Democrat said he had significant surgery last year amid an unfounded cancer scare, as well as a hip replacement. But neither is the reason a doctor certified him to use marijuana, he said.

Still, Fritchey declined to say which of the state’s 40 or so qualifying conditions makes him eligible. “I hope everybody would understand people want to have a right to medical privacy,” he explained.

Fritchey first backed the legalization of medical marijuana as a state lawmaker in 2004, some nine years before Illinois’ law was approved. In 2011, he backed decriminalization in the city and came out in favor of legalization. Now, he’s the primary sponsor of a March 20 primary election referendum asking Cook County voters if they favor legalization of recreational use. It’s only advisory and would not have the force of law if approved.

Fritchey also faces attorney Bridget Degnen in a primary for the County Board seat he holds. Until recently, she was a state regulator of medical marijuana dispensaries. Fritchey said he sees no political advantage or disadvantage in disclosing his medicinal pot use. His aim in going public, he said, is to decrease its stigma.

“There continues to exist a belief among a lot of people that it is just some back-door way to get access to cannabis,” Fritchey said. “That can’t be further from the truth. … I want to work to help alleviate any sense of embarrassment or stigma that people may have.

“I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of if you say, ‘It’s been determined by a doctor that I have a qualifying condition and I am going to try this and, you know what, it works,'” he said. “I think it would be hypocritical of me to try to mainstream not just medical cannabis, but not be willing to acknowledge I’m a patient.”