Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Reasonable people see a difference between using marijuana to treat the symptoms of a serious illness and passing out joints on a playground. Yet both acts, under current law, are criminal.
State lawmakers can fix that by passing a pending bill, which in previous years has been shot down, that would legalize the medical use of marijuana by people with cancer, HIV, Crohn’s disease and several other illnesses.
Fifteen other states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, which has been shown to reduce the nausea and vomiting that are typical side effects of anti-cancer drugs. It also is effective in improving the appetite of AIDS patients, treating the pain of multiple sclerosis and treating the pressure within the eye caused by glaucoma.
A measure before the Illinois House would allow people with specific medical conditions to purchase marijuana from not-for-profit dispensaries, so long as they have proof of medical need from their doctor. A database would be set up to make sure patients don’t buy more than 2.5 ounces every 14 days. And the law would expire, if not renewed, in three years.
Lawmakers should not fear that supporting this bill will make them look soft on crime.
A national poll conducted last year by the Washington Post and ABC News found that 81 percent of Americans favor legalizing medical marijuana.
Will there be abuses? Of course. The same can be said of legal prescription painkillers, whose misuse can be far more dangerous. But the multiple safeguards written into this carefully crafted bill should keep the unintended consequences to a minimum while finally giving to people in great physical pain the relief they need.