ALTON, IL Federal prosecutors and drug agents will no longer go after medical marijuana clinics or their patients. The announcement, which came Monday from the Obama White House, reverses the hard-line policy of the Bush Administration toward medical marijuana which is now legal in 14 states. Reports are that Illinois could become the 15th state to make it legal. A bill allowing medical marijuana has passed the Illinois Senate. It’s just waiting action from the Illinois House of Representatives. And helping lead the medical marijuana drive in Illinois is a most unlikely lawmaker: State Senator Bill Haine (D) from Alton.
Haine is a former prosecutor and a law-and-order kind of guy.
“I have a reputation as pro-law enforcement. Two years ago the Illinois police chiefs gave me their public official of the year award,” says St. Sen. Hain.
So it came as a big surprise that Haine is sponsoring a bill that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes in Illinois.
“Among the cops, it was a Nixon going to China moment. Bill Haine sponsoring a medical marijuana bill.”
Senator Haine’s bill would allow the state to license medical marijuana dispensaries. A patient with a doctor’s prescription and a special license from the state culd buy weed legally.
‘Marijuana has been established to be of medical use for these purposes for many years,” says Haine.
By these purposes Haine’s bill means conditions like nausea from chemotherapy, cancer, epilepsy, or AIDS.
That’s sometimes not the case in a few states where medical marijuana’s legal, especially California. There suspicious street corner clinics have dispensed marijuana for vague conditions like anxiety. That’s led to raids in places like Los Angeles County.
Ron Brooks with the National Narcotics Officer Association says, “You can ask any ER doctor, or ER nurse, EMS worker, fire fighter, cop, teacher and say, ‘do you think this is a good idea to legalize marijuana?’ And they will tell you that is the dumbest idea they have heard. Absolutely not.”
But the argument Bill Haine makes to law enforcement is that the Feds considering marijuana a Schedule One drug–the most dangerous kind–is absurd.
“No one has shown me yet anyone who ever overdosed on marijuana. And yet marijuana is a Schedule One drug, which I thought was an unreasonable application by the feds,” says Haine.
Senator Haine meets with Illinois House leaders next week trying to get final approval of the proposal. As to the chance of medical marijuana becoming law in Illinois, Bill Haine admits that with Illinois facing financial meltdown medical marijuana may not be at the top of any lawmakers agenda right now.