Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed legislation this afternoon- after months of silence regarding medical cannabis- making the “Prairie State” the 20th state in the union to legalize medical cannabis.
Quinn spoke about medical cannabis at a veterans event today before signing the legislation. Quinn weaved his comments about medical cannabis into a speech about veterans and the chronically ill, something that has a been a primary focus of his stint as governor.
Quinn also emphasized that Illinois will have the toughest standards in the nation in terms of patients obtaining medical cannabis, the Associated Press is reporting.
Quinn had kept silent for months about whether or not he would sign the legislation, House Bill 1, commenting that he had spoken to sick patients who had compelling arguments over legal access to medical cannabis and that he was “open minded” about the issue. Quinn’s Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon tested the political water first, openly supporting the moves to legalize cannabis months prior.
Quinn signed the legislation at the University of Chicago with medical cannabis advocates and the bill’s key sponsor, state Re. Lou Lang, a “Shokie” Democrat, front and center to witness the historic move.
One supporter of the bill, Army veteran Jim Champion, who has suffered from multiple sclerosis for 25 years, said medical cannabis has reduced his pill intake significantly.
“I feel finally vindicated in a way,” Champion told the AP. “All this time I’ve been telling people it helps me, but I’ve been living with the stigma of being a disabled veteran and also a criminal.”
The bill’s passage sets in motion a pilot program where patients and potential cannabis caregivers will be subject a vigorous background check before approval. The bill also limits the amount of medical cannabis obtained by a patient to 2.5 ounces over a two-week period.
In addition, HB-1 will impose a strict tracking system that will monitor all sales and plant cultivation and lists only 30 specific illnesses for patients to qualify to obtain medical cannabis, including cancer.
Lang, who crafted the bill, was overjoyed about the signing of the legislation.
“It’s gratifying to be in a situation where after a significant amount of work we were able to finalize a bill that will provide so much relief and a better quality of life for people in the state of Illinois,” Lang told the AP.
Illinois has become the 20th state in the union, including the District of Columbia to legalize medical cannabis. Although the tipping point to full 50-state legalization of medical cannabis has not yet been reached, many in the cannabis legalization movement believe the decision to legalize medical cannabis in Illinois is a major step in the right direction for such a moment to occur.
The Illinois law will take effect on January 1, 2014.