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Decision Looming On Marijuana Legalization In Illinois

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Dorothy Tucker Dorothy Tucker
Dorothy Tucker has served as a reporter for CBS 2 Chicago since 1984....
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CHICAGO (CBS) — Medical marijuana supporters are hoping the Governor will sign a bill in the coming weeks legalizing the drug for medical use.

But as CBS 2′s Dorothy Tucker reports, opponents continue to point to problems in other states and worry Illinois might face similar issues.

Julie Falco says that she was, “ready to commit suicide,” to escape the debilitating effects of MS. What did she find? Cookies made with marijuana.

“Not only did it help with my muscle spasticity, leg spasticity, my numbness and tingling, the pain… it saved my life,” said Falco.

Improving the lives of the chronically ill is how supporters convinced lawmakers to pass medical marijuana in Illinois. Opponents, like Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel has a list of objections. The biggest, is marijuana patients who drive.

“Their reactions are slow. It could either just cause erratic driving or in some cases they may be involved in auto accidents,” said Wietzel.

There are no studies to confirm Weitzel’s fears about patients who may drive under the influence. In fact, a study looking at 16 states where medical marijuana is legal found traffic deaths dropped nine percent. Those same researchers also looked at the impact on teenagers and saw that eleven states saw fewer teens smoking pot.

Patients in Illinois will need an ID to buy pot. 2.5 ounces will be the limit, which is enough to stuff two small sandwich bags. Up to 60 shops could get permission to sell it.

“I don’t think it would attract the right types of crowds that most communities would want,” said Weitzel.

That was the case in Denver, Colorado which saw a rise in marijuana related crimes. However, in Sacramento, California there was no increase in crime. According to a recent report, Colorado also ran out of money and failed to complete background checks on nearly half of the shop owners, and found 56 shops underreported sales taxes by more than $750,000.

“I don’t think that Cancer patients in Illinois should be denied access to this medicine because an agency in Colorado didn’t do what they were supposed to do,” said marijuana proponent Dan Linn.

Still, letters from opponents urge the Governor to veto the bill. Patients pray he’ll sign it.

“Chronically ill patients, all they’re wanting to do is find some relief,” said Falco.

Another concern from opponents is patients buying medical marijuana and selling it to others illegally. Supporters say the Illinois law would prevent that by barring anyone who is caught from buying medical marijuana in the future. If dispensaries in Illinois follow the lead of Colorado, patients will pay $35 to $40 for an eighth of an ounce.

If the bill becomes law, it will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

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