CHICAGO

Illinois Medical Marijuana House Committee Vote: Panel OKs Pot Plan, Full House Vote Next

FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2011 file photo, Illinois state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, speaks with reporters at the State Capitol in
FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2011 file photo, Illinois state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, speaks with reporters at the State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. More than two years after Gov. Pat Quinn signed the video gambling law, Illinois still doesn’t have all the regulations or a centralized computer system in place to launch a network of betting terminals at bars and restaurants, veterans and fraternal organizations, and truck stops. The law has been held up by lawsuits, rule writing and much more. The delay in implementing video gambling irritates Lang, one of the General Assembly’s biggest proponents of gambling, who says the Illinois Gaming Board board has "dragged its heels.” (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

Hope sparked for Illinois' would-be medical marijuana users after a state House panel approved a measure to legalize the use of weed in medical cases on Wednesday.

Though Wednesday's vote means legal medical weed in the state is one step closer to reality, pro-legalization supporters have been through this before: As the State Journal-Register notes, similar legislation failed in the General Assembly over the years — including the most recent lame-duck session in January.

This time, however, the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie, claimed he’s optimistic. This version, filed as House Bill 1, has even tighter regulations than those of past failed iterations which at the time were the most strictly-written in the country.

“We wanted to make it as tight and as highly regulated as possible, (and) we could to give this a try for four years so we can convince members of the General Assembly that it should be a permanent program,” Lang said.

Under proposed legislation of House Bill 1, medical marijuana use would only be allowed to patients with qualifying conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV. Approved users would get a special ID card allowing them to buy limited amounts of medical marijuana from one of 66 state-licensed dispensaries.

In a Wednesday statement, Dan Riffle, deputy director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, applauded the House panel's move.

"Seriously ill people who receive significant relief from their use of marijuana should not be treated like criminals," Riffle said. "If their doctors believe treating their conditions with medical marijuana will improve the quality of their lives, they should not have to risk being arrested and prosecuted."

Opponents to the bill argue it would increase recreational use of the drug especially among teens, though such attitudes are quickly shrinking in to the minority: A February poll of Illinois residents overwhelmingly support the legalization of marijuana in the state.

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