A Small Bit of Medical Marijuana Hope in Illinois

  Screen shot 2010 07 20 at 2.47.13 PM A Small Bit of Medical Marijuana Hope in Illinois Larry King lights a marijuana "cigarette" for patient Robert Randall on air, 1988.   In 1976, Robert C. Randall argued before a D.C. Superior Court that the marijuana plants he had been arrested for growing on his front porch two years previously were his only realistic option to preventing glaucoma from blinding him. Randall shocked a nation and won the case - as the Judge described at the time - because he "established a defense of necessity. . . . The evil he sought to avert, blindness, is greater than that he performed." Charges were dismissed and Randall’s attorney secured him a spot in a research program run by the Federal Drug Administration allotting him 10 marijuana “cigarettes” a day, making Randall the first U.S. citizen to legally use marijuana in country since 1937. Randall went on to advocate for the rights of medical marijuana patients, speaking to Congress Assemblies, judges and public policy groups about how to integrate marijuana into the health systems already in place. In his later years, Randall spent most of his time campaigning for the rights of AIDS patients. In 2001, Randall succumb to AIDS himself, but his seeds of success established a solid medical marijuana movement in the U.S. which seems to be blossoming. With a slew of states currently passing marijuana reform and 18 already convinced enough of the benefits of the drug to make it legal in various forms, Randall’s initial spark of bravery has made it all the way to the state of Illinois.   This news is certainly less shocking than Randall’s court win over 30 years ago, but Illinois law makers feel they have the perfect timing. Delaying legalization means that other states have already had to work through the difficult issues surrounding medical marijuana, from setting up dispensaries to understanding driving limitations - Lou Lang, Democrat sponsor of the bill feels it’s finally the right time to move forward. Lang says his bill gives marijuana access to patients who have long-standing, ongoing relationships with their doctors, unlike other states where dispensaries can come with prescribing physicians who can write script for the drug on site. Lang is also clear that this bill is not an act for “de-facto legalization of recreational marijuana” - medical rights will only be applicable to those suffering from ailments like HIV, cancer and multiple sclerosis. Mental illness and chronic pain didn’t even make the qualifying list.   If legalized, Illinois’s marijuana outlets will be discreet, out of the public eye and have limited storefront appeal. Patients will not be allowed to grow their own supply and drivers suspected of drug use will be subjected to field tests by police or risk license suspension. The bill is not vague in any form or lenient, but this is deliberate. If medical marijuana is to be approved for use in Illinois, it seems it’s going to have to to come under firm, checked, terms, and will ultimately see patients receiving even less marijuana than Randall did back in late 1970’s - 2.5 grams every two weeks.

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