In a narrow Wednesday vote that was a big coup for pro-marijuana legalization advocates, the Illinois House of Representatives advanced a medical marijuana bill.
The bill was approved by a vote of 61-57 and will next be considered in the state Senate, which previously approved a similar -- and more far-reaching -- version of the bill in 2009, the Chicago Sun-Times notes.
(Click here for a roll call on the vote.)
Ahead of the House vote, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn said earlier Wednesday that he is "open-minded" on the bill, indicating that the measure is likely to have his support, according to the Chicago Tribune. The bill also has the support of Senate President John Cullerton, the AP reports.
Earlier in the week, a coalition of nearly 250 physicians came forward and gave a thumbs up to Illinois' bill -- which would establish a four-year pilot program during which individuals with diseases including cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis would be able to get a special ID card allowing them to buy limited amounts -- up to two-and-a-half ounces -- of medical marijuana from one of 60 state-licensed dispensaries.
The bill's sponsor, state Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, previously described the measure as "model legislation for the [rest of the] country."
Dan Riffle, spokesman for the legalization advocacy group the Marijuana Policy Project, applauded the House's approval of the bill in a statement.
"There is a scientific consensus that marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for nausea, pain, loss of appetite, and other symptoms of debilitating illnesses," Riffle said. "It should be up to medical professionals, not law enforcement professionals, to decide whether medical marijuana is the right treatment for their patients.”
If the Senate OKs the bill and it gets the governor's signature, Illinois would become the 19th U.S. state to legalize medical marijuana.