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Illinois takes another step in modifying drug laws

Though the general public's attitude about drugs continues to evolve, legislators are often slow to respond and reflect those changes in our laws. Here in Illinois, lawmakers have grudgingly extended our state's Medical Cannabis Pilot Program through the summer of 2020. The program had been due to expire next year.

Legislators even added two qualifying conditions for those who suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and those who have been diagnosed with terminal cancer. It means members of those two groups – who likely have more than enough troubles to deal with in their lives – now have some limited ability to circumvent drug laws that could have resulted in their arrests.

The extension of the law also lengthens the period authorization cards for patients and caregivers are good for, from one year to three. Cardholders will also apparently not have to go through multiple fingerprinting as part of the background check process.

For those with terminal illnesses, the authorization process will be speeded up; cutting down the time they have to wait from 6 - 7 weeks to approvals within 14 days.

Gov. Bruce Rauner was initially reluctant to sign the bill, saying the state needed more time to evaluate the benefits of medical marijuana, but then changed his position and signed the measure. The signature undoubtedly caused patients and patients' families across Illinois to breathe sighs of relief.

Rauner has more marijuana-related legislation to consider: a bill to decriminalize possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana worked its way through the House of Representatives. If a person was found with the small amount, they would be subject only to a fine, not arrest and criminal prosecution.

For many, the legislation is a step in the right direction. They believe society will be better off when we devote significantly fewer resources to arresting, trying and imprisoning people for drug use and focus instead on helping those struggling with substance abuse.

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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