CHICAGO (AP) — After months of keeping his decision-making close to the vest, Gov. Pat Quinn is poised to sign legislation on Thursday that would make Illinois the 20th state nationwide to legalize marijuana for medical use.
The Chicago Democrat's public schedule said he's going to take up an issue affecting veterans and people fighting chronic illnesses Thursday at the University of Chicago. Advocates for medical marijuana and the bill's sponsor state Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, confirmed that they had been invited to a bill signing.
Among those attending will be Army veteran Jim Champion, who suffers from a progressive form of multiple sclerosis and says that cannabis has helped him reduce the number pills he takes. At one time he was taking nearly 60 a day.
"I feel finally vindicated in a way," said Champion, who has met Quinn before. "All this time I've been telling people it helps me, but I've been living with the stigma of being a disabled veteran and also a criminal."
Quinn has been reticent for months about what he was going to do, only saying that he was "keeping an open mind."
The measure outlines a four-year pilot program that requires patients and caregivers to undergo background checks and sets provisions for state-regulated dispensaries. The proposal says seriously ill patients can be allowed up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. But it's only for patients who have a relationship with their doctor and who suffer from the more than 30 specifically-listed medical conditions in the bill.
After it's signed, the law takes effect Jan. 1.
"It's gratifying to be in a situation where after a significant amount of work we were able to finalize a bill that will provide so much relief and a better quality of life for people in the state of Illinois," Lang said.
The bill is HB1.