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Editorial: Fact and fiction on medical marijuana

A young man lights marijuancigarette during demonstratidemanding new law cannabis Montevideo May 8 2013. | AFP PHOTO

A young man lights a marijuana cigarette during a demonstration demanding a new law on cannabis in Montevideo on May 8, 2013. | AFP PHOTO

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Updated: June 14, 2013 6:10AM

For seriously ill folks looking for relief, a big moment has arrived.

Here’s hoping the Illinois Senate doesn’t blow it.

A bill legalizing medical marijuana likely will come up for a vote this week. The bill already has passed the House. In years past, less restrictive versions of the very same bill have prevailed in the Senate.

Yet, we worry.

We fear that fear will overcome reason. We worry that speculation about opening the door to drug legalization will trump the facts. We worry that compassion for people in pain will get lost in the political shuffle.

Here are the facts: The bill legalizing medical marijuana before the Illinois Senate is among the most restrictive of its kind in the nation, strictly regulating who can get medical pot, when and where.

Under the bill, creating a four-year pilot program, prescriptions would be limited to about 30 illnesses, such as cancer, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis, and could be written only by a doctor with an established relationship to the patient. Patients would be limited to 2.5 ounces every two weeks, purchased from designated dispensaries.

Every sale would be recorded for tracking purposes. Patients could not grow their own pot, as is allowed in California.

If anything, Illinois’ bill may be too restrictive and cumbersome. Eighteen other states plus D.C. already allow for the use of medical marijuana.

Then there’s this: Pot works. THC, a main ingredient, can reduce the nausea caused by anti-cancer drugs and is effective in improving the appetite of AIDS patients. Pot also can help in treating the pain of multiple sclerosis and eye pressure caused by glaucoma. And arguably, it’s more benign, cheaper and has fewer side effects than other painkillers, such as Vicodin and Oxycodone.

In the name of compassion, here’s hoping facts and reason prevail in the Illinois Senate.

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