By LINDSEY SALVATELLI
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD — The House on Saturday voted to permanently legalize medical marijuana in Illinois.
Lawmakers approved a pilot program for medical marijuana legalization in 2013 that is set to expire next year.
The House approved making the legalization permanent with a 98-3 vote on the last day of its session Saturday. The measure still must be approved by the Senate, which is scheduled to reconvene at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Rep. Bob Morgan, a Deerfield Democrat, said Senate Bill 2023 stabilizes the program, clarifies who can be certified patients, and adds a social equity component. The bill also adds 11 new qualifying conditions, including chronic pain, migraines, anorexia, and irritable bowel syndrome.
“There are tens of thousands of patients in Illinois that are relying on us to get this done, to stabilize and continue and extend this program for them,” Morgan said from the House floor Saturday evening.
Sen. Laura Fine, a Glenview Democrat and the bill’s Senate sponsor, said the expanded list of conditions should have added to the program last session but was denied by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Sandy Champion has been advocating for medical marijuana in Illinois since 2010, and she testified Friday in favor of the bill during a Senate committee hearing.
She suffers from migraines, and has been one of those waiting to have her condition recognized.
“I have fought so hard for everyone around me. I’m the only who hasn’t been able to partake in the program yet,” she said. “I don't want to get high. I don't want to get stoned. I don't want to lay on my couch all day; I have someone I have to take care of.”
She also spoke in favor of clearing the way for veterans prescribed opioids to opt-in to an alternative program that gives them access to medical cannabis. Federal doctors, she explained, have been unable to provide prescriptions that their patients can take outside of their health systems.
“Veterans were left out,” Champion said. “That was not our intention, and we need that to change.”
Morgan said there’s approximately 60,000 patients enrolled in the medical cannabis program. He said he’s spoken with patients who have voiced concerned about the permanency and access to the program since it remained untouched by the two previous administrations.
“I pledged to those patients, when I worked in state government, that I would continue to fight to protect the program, and this is my solution to that my pledge and my promise being fulfilled,” Morgan said.