Early last month, Governor Pat Quinn's signature officially made Illinois the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana.
It's a step in the right direction...but that's all I'll give it.
You see, Illinois' marijuana law is different than the others.
"This is the toughest medical marijuana bill in the nation and model legislation for the rest of the country," says State Senator Bill Haine.
Hes's right about it being the toughest. It limits access to those with only the most serious of medical conditions. How many of these qualifying diseases can you even pronounce? While it's always good to err on the side of caution, to say that it's model legislation for the rest of the country is ignorance redefined.
Let me clarify: Illinois having any type of marijuana program is cause for celebration. Alabama and Arkansas (and others) are still throwing people in a cage for simple possession and most states haven't even approached passing a medical marijuana bill. Illinois will go down in history as one of the leaders of the "green rush" considering they're the 20th state to do so.
I'm still not satisfied and won't be until policy is aligned with science.
Why are Illinois lawmakers patting themselves on the back for the program's strictness? What are they protecting us from, exactly?
It certainly isn't dependence, where marijuana ranks lower than alcohol, nicotine, heroin and even caffeine.
It isn't lung cancer, either. The largest study ever conducted of its kind showed no link between marijuana smoking and cancer.
What about brain cell death? Nope. Quite the contrary, actually.
Alcohol and cigarettes are available on every corner and shoved down our throats every time we turn the TV on, so who are these guys trying to fool?
With Colorado and Washington leading the way, policy is beginning to align with the truth. The tide is shifting. Even CNN's chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta has turned his opinion around after digging deeper into the research.
After Gupta's documentary aired, many of my social media friends were blown away by marijuana's ability to essentially heal a young girl's epilepsy-induced seizures with zero negative side effects. Yet, their comments shed light on how much work is still to be done to remove the stigma:
"300 seizures a week down to one or two occasionally? Wow. I have to say that's worth it."
Worth it? You think?
Saying that medical marijuana is "worth it" implies there are negatives worse than those brought on by the pharmaceuticals she would otherwise be on. What am I missing here?
A person dies at the hands of a doctor-prescribed drug every 19 minutes in this country. 19 minutes. Allow that to sink in. Then consider that in thousands of years of human use, there are zero documented deaths caused directly by marijuana.
The efforts to keep marijuana in the hands of only the sickest Illinois residents are pointless and silly. Anyone that wants marijuana is going to get it, so why not open the program to everyone that feels they could benefit?
Kills cancer cells.
If this plant were discovered in the Amazon Rainforest a week ago, it would be hailed as a miracle. For many people, it is a miracle.
Marijuana isn't going away. The positive results will continue to outnumber the negative as scientists forge ahead with research. The country is actually trending in the direction of full legalization, not just medicinal.
Illinois needs to embrace science, public opinion and the reality of marijuana's future in this country.
As long as an Illinois soldier with severe PTSD is denied access to his best treatment option, I refuse to call this a win.
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