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Medical marijuana may be needed Rx for Illinois patients

ShaunBittle | Staff Photographer Editorial columnist LindMcDaniel-Hale photographed house ElgIL Friday Nov. 28 2008.

Shauna Bittle | Staff Photographer Editorial columnist Linda McDaniel-Hale photographed in house in Elgin, IL on Friday, Nov. 28, 2008.

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Updated: June 6, 2013 6:18AM

Eighteen states have already legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and Illinois could make it 19 in the near future.

The Illinois House of Representatives voted 61-57 on April 17 to approve a bill making marijuana legal for medical purposes. The next step is for the Senate to approve this measure before Gov. Pat Quinn could possibly sign it into law.

The bill approved by the House would create a four-year pilot program for patients suffering from painful and terminal diseases to use marijuana, which is currently illegal in the state. The law would set a limit of 2.5 ounces per patient per purchase every 14 days. According to some reports, that would be about 183 joints, or 13 per day.

Many Fox Valley communities including Carpentersville, Aurora, Sugar Grove and Yorkville already are treating getting caught with a small amount of marijuana more like a parking offense than a criminal misdemeanor. Smoking pot is nowhere near the big deal it used to be.

A poll directed by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute this past February found that 63.3 percent of Illinois residents either strongly favor or favor legalizing the use of medical marijuana. Only 32.1 percent of those polled strongly opposed or opposed its legalization for medicinal purposes. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center poll, nationwide 52 percent of Americans favor the legalization of marijuana altogether. So why not listen to the constituents?

With marijuana not anywhere near as addictive as cocaine, heroin or legalized painkillers such as the narcotic Vicodin, why wouldn’t a physician go ahead and prescribe that drug to patients suffering from the eight diseases the new bill will allow medical marijuana to be used for? Included in the aliments being considered for pain management are cancer, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis.

Especially in the case of terminal cancer, traditional pain medications often lose their effectiveness or cause an extreme lack of coherency. Wouldn’t the use of medical marijuana bring a more dignified end to a patient suffering in agony with late-stage cancer or multiple sclerosis?

Although people often die from overdoes of alcohol, prescription drugs and heroin, an overdose of marijuana is highly unlikely. So why not go ahead and allow it? With so much caution being taken with the development of a four-year pilot program, it seems like a no-brainer. Why not give people suffering from the listed medical conditions the opportunity to try to ease their pain with marijuana?

This isn’t a question about long-haired pot-smoking freaky people anymore.

Linda McDaniel-Hale is a Sleepy Hollow resident.

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