Marijuana legislation was passed in the Illinois House on Wednesday by a 61-57 vote to permit a four-year pilot program to allow for the legal use of medical marijuana under extremely strict controls.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Illinois is now the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana. USA Today believes it’s the 20th such state, noting that New Hampshire’s governor signed medical marijuana legalization last week.
Either way, the new Illinois marijuana law — which goes into effect on January 1 — will have extremely tough provisions to prevent the herb from falling into the hands of recreational users.
The medical marijuana will be produced at 22 centers under 24 hour surveillance and distributed at 60 state-run outlets. There are over 30 serious conditions for which the doctors can prescribe the drug to a patient.
The doctor can’t prescribe marijuana to a new patient or more than 2.5 ounces a week even to an ongoing patient.
And patients will be fingerprinted and asked to go through a background check.
The new Illinois law stands in stark contrast to Uruguay’s announcement that marijuana legalization had leaped over a huge hurdle in the small South American nation. On Wednesday night, their lower house of Congress voted 50-46 to pass a very liberal law supported by the nation’s President José Mujica.
Uruguay’s law is expected to pass its upper house in months.
Possession of marijuana has already been legal there since 2000. But the new law will allow for the legal sale and growing of the herb.
When the law is enabled, Uruguayan marijuana consumers will have multiple options for legal recreational and medical use. They can join small growing clubs, grow their own, or legally purchase up to 40 grams a month in licensed outlets.
By contrast, the new law in Illinois will provide some limited options to medical marijuana users but still won’t protect recreational users from the long art of the law.
But it’s still an encouraging trend for those who believe that public policy is better served by legalizing marijuana.