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Med Marijuana Has Supporters, Detractors

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Grafton resident Jamie Clayton, 55, sees first-hand the medical benefits of marijuana.

A longtime AIDS patient, he participated in a groundbreaking FDA-approved study in approximately 2002 proving the drug's efficiency in treating pain caused by nerve damage.

"I don't agree with some of the more radical aspects, but it has progressed since the time it was done, there's a lot of good science in there," said Clayton, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1990. "I pretty much got involved in clinical trials in '91 with some good doctors and grown old with a lot of doctors at Washington University."

For approximately the last nine years, Clayton has sat on Washington University's advisory board.

"As far as the study I did in California, I found out about it from Washington University in 2002, interviewed for it, went out, and had appointments, labs, different things and was accepted," he said.

During phase two of the study, Clayton smoked cannabis in a hospital where he met a doctor who filmed the study, now a documentary called "Waiting to Inhale." The Journal of Neurology also published the study three years ago.

"We've realized it is a medicine, which we try to stress," said Clayton, who was the only person from the Midwest involved in the study.

Clayton admits Illinois has been a tough sell for a bill providing for the medical use of marijuana.

"But it went from not ever having it in committee, then through (Senator William Haine, D-Alton) it went through the Senate, and representative Lang worked real well with the House," Clayton said. "We basically lost by four votes; you know, that's a win."

Lang is state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, the leading supporter of medical marijuana legislation in the General Assembly, and sponsor of House Bill 30, which is likely to be acted upon this spring.

Clayton said approximately half of the House of Representatives recognized cannabis as beneficial.

"That means we sent our message home; to half in the state, it's beneficial," Clayton said.

Also, Haine once again has introduced a medical cannabis bill, Senate bill 1548, to legislators. If Lang passes his bill, Haine likely will become the Senate sponsor of Lang's bill, Lang said.

There are opponents, some right here in Alton.

Democratic state Rep. Dan Beiser said he stands behind his district's law enforcement officials, who are opposed to the bill.

Beiser said Alton Police Chief David Hayes is staunchly against the bill because of strides Alton police have made in drug enforcement.

Haine sponsored a similar bill before as the companion bill to Lang's in 2009, which passed the House Health and Human Services Committee on a 4-3 vote.

"We're not going to let people stockpile cannabis," Lang said in an interview with The Telegraph. "No one can have more at any one time; if you have one ounce, you can't get more. If someone is caught with more than the maximum amount, they're going to jail."

Also, the database will be accessible by law enforcement.

"If they need information about a patient, they will be able to check, and that dovetails into making sure that people can't buy 2.5 ounces in one location, and then get more at another location, so everything has to be in a database," Lang said.

To get a license for medical cannabis, a doctor has to recommend the drug in writing. And, like in Lang's previous bill, defeated last year, the licensee has the burden of proof to the Department of Public Health, including showing relevant medical records to the department that prove the patient has an applicable disease that can be treated by medical cannabis.

Also, like in his last bill, patients can get a caregiver.

Little change took place in the bill as far as driving and medical cannabis.

"Under a code bill and the previous bill, the law presumes you are impaired if there is any trace of cannabis or drugs in your system, just as in the current bill," he said. But, in the case of cannabis, it stays in the blood a very long time; it can stay in your system for 28 days from a few puffs of a joint."

Lang wants to make sure there is a standard in the law - such as the 0.08 percent figure used in alcohol impairment in Illinois drivers.

"The new bill says if it's over that number, presume you're impaired; but, if you're under, presume you are not," Lang said. "But it also says that if a law enforcement officer suspects you are impaired, they can cite you and you go to court, just like now."

Besides putting an absolute number in the bill, also included is a six-hour window in which a patient cannot drive after being treated.

"If you have taken medical cannabis or ingested marijuana smoke, you cannot drive at all for six hours," Lang said.

The new bill does nothing to change the rights of employers to have a drug-free workplace, even if an employee has a legal right to have cannabis.

"But it goes on to say that an employer must not discriminate against someone smoking medical marijuana," he said. "They can't say, 'We allow people with other drugs to work here, but not you.'"

The same pertains to landlords, he said.

"A smoke-free or drug-free building, they will continue to have, but that doesn't mean patients can't cook with marijuana," Lang said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second of two parts on continuing efforts to pass medical marijuana legislation in Illinois.

News Hawk- Jacob Husky 420 MAGAZINE
Source: thetelegraph.com
Author: Jill Moon
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Copyright: Freedom Communications, Inc.
Website: Med marijuana has supporters, detractors
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