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Illinois - Medical Marijuana Can Be A Legal Pain

The General

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The new Illinois law that allows marijuana to be used as medicine contains some legal quirks that could be challenging for patients seeking relief from 40 ailments covered under the law, expected to be in full bloom next spring. With approval in July of the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, the state joined 24 others that have legalized medical marijuana. Navigating the more than 300 pages of rules is the first requirement for patients and those interested in joining the limited number of businesses that will be approved to grow and dispense the substance, said Illinois State University Professor Ralph Weisheit.

"It's an understatement to say it's a complicated law," the criminal justice sciences professor told an audience recently at an event in Normal sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union. The four-year pilot project makes the drug available to treat many serious diseases, including cancer, spinal cord disease, traumatic brain injury and multiple sclerosis. Unlike other states, the Illinois statute does not allow marijuana to be taken for chronic pain not linked to a qualifying condition.

Stiff requirements on the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana were part of the trade-offs by lawmakers to get the bill passed, said Weisheit. "Marijuana is a drug that we have such mixed feelings about as a society. It's fair to say some are still afraid of it," he said. The fear factor is evident in the military-style protocols mandated for 22 cultivation centers – one in each state police district – that are expected to be approved in December. Armed guards, vaults and 24/7 surveillance cameras linked to state police are part of the rules for growing operations.

"It sounds like they are dealing with radioactive material," Weisheit quipped. The three counties in state police District 6, McLean, Livingston and DeWitt, attracted 10 cultivation center applications from a total of 159 across the state. The same three counties have four applicants competing for one dispensary permit. In September, the McLean County Board rejected a special use permit from Tim Jones for a cultivation center near Downs, saying the proposed land use was more industrial than agriculture-related.

Carlo Robustelli, one of the 15 county board members who opposed the use permit, said he does not believe the vote was driven by negative feelings about medical marijuana. "I would conjecture that the majority of board members support the use of marijuana for medical purposes," Robustelli said. Jones has since filed an application for a cultivation center on property within the village of Downs.

And there are issues for drivers. The potential legal problem that drivers face if they operate a vehicle after using marijuana are straight-forward, said McLean County Assistant State's Attorney Jeff Horve. "An individual is not permitted to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of a drug, whether prescribed or illegal," said the felony drug prosecutor. Drivers who are impaired because of prescription medications are subject to arrest and prosecution. The same holds true for medical marijuana, Horve said.

"In addition, Illinois law currently has a statutory provision that does not allow a person to operate a motor vehicle with any cannabis in their system," the prosecutor noted. The prosecutor said he has concerns about the potential for impaired drivers, illegal sales of the drug by people who obtain it legally and substance abuse.

Defense lawyers have predictably different worries. "Although we welcome cannabis as a means to help those who are suffering, we fear that the police or state's attorney will use the DUI laws as a weapon against the sickest among us," Bloomington lawyer Mark D. Johnson said. Defense lawyer Brendan Bukalski said the conflict between federal drug laws that consider marijuana use illegal and state rules that allow it create problems for people.

"We've even had clients that possessed cannabis lawfully in one state be charged in another state," said Bukalski, of Bloomington. Among the places marijuana is barred are daycares, schools and correctional facilities. Excluded from having the medical cards are law enforcement and probation officers and school bus drivers.


News Moderator - The General @ 420 MAGAZINE ®
Source: Herald-review.com
Author: Edith Brady-Lunny
Contact: Contact Us
Website: Medical marijuana can be a legal pain : Government and Politics
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