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Pass medical marijuana bill

Men smoke marijuancigars during march for its decriminalizatiMedellAntioquidepartment ColombiMay 4 2013 framework MarijuanWorld Day.  AFP PHOTO/Raul ARBOLEDARAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images

Men smoke marijuana cigars during a march for its decriminalization in Medellin, Antioquia department, Colombia on May 4, 2013, in the framework of the Marijuana World Day. AFP PHOTO/Raul ARBOLEDARAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images

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Updated: June 16, 2013 6:16AM

The Sun-Times editorial of May 13 calling for the Illinois Senate to legalize medical marijuana gets it just right.

HB 1 will help people suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, HIV, spinal disease, ALS and other terrible ailments. These people should not be dismissed as “anecdotes.”

The Sun-Times Editorial Board is also right to hope that, once legislators see this law functioning well and providing relief, it can be amended to make the pilot program permanent and open to individuals in debilitating pain whose doctors recommend it.

Resistance to the bill comes predominantly from law enforcement groups and other individuals who have spent all or part of their careers on the enforcement side of the drug war. Police officers don’t want to adjust to a new law even though they will have the same powers of enforcement that they do regarding the far more dangerous prescription drugs of OxyContin and Vicodin.

Law enforcement officers are well-trained in recognizing the signs of impaired driving. The bill gives them every tool they need and then some to identify, arrest, and prosecute anyone who drives under the influence. And while we all hope the Food and Drug Administration heeds the call of the AMA and other physicians groups to remove barriers to research and re-examine the federal government’s classification of marijuana, Illinois legislators are elected to determine Illinois law.

They should pass this bill to both provide relief to suffering constituents, and in so doing further incentivize change at the federal level.

Over 260 doctors in Illinois, religious leaders, medical organizations, and those of us who have come to know patients suffering unremitting chronic pain have finally had enough. Doctors should determine medical need, not law enforcement.

HB 1 should pass immediately. Patients have waited far too long in Illinois.

The Rev. Alexander E. Sharp is acting executive director of The Community Renewal Society.

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