SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — A push to legalize medicinal marijuana failed in the state House on Thursday.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Brian Seay reports, the bill fell four votes short of the 60 it required for passage. The final vote was 60-56.

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State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), the sponsor, says the bill would pass if his colleagues would simply admit they are in favor of it.

But Rep. Patricia Bellock (R-Elmhurst) says marijuana is a drug, and an illegal one at that.

“I think that it is an issue that is trying to be mainstreamed in America as a medicine, not a drug, and I think that’s a dangerous thing,” Bellock said. “If people want to address the issue of legalizing marijuana in the United States, or in the state of Illinois, they should address it head-on.”

The law would not have allowed prospective merchants to set up marijuana dispensaries, or restaurants cooking with marijuana recipes for medical cannabis cardholders, as in California and Colorado, respectively.
Rather, the bill would have commenced a three-year pilot program allowing people suffering from certain “debilitating” illnesses to possess up to six cannabis plants. The bill limits the illnesses that would qualify for medical marijuana to cancer, HIV-AIDS, hepatitis C, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease and Alzheimer’s.

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Under the law, medical marijuana users would have had to register and hold cards, and could face two years in prison if they shared with those not legally allowed to use cannabis.

Lang denies he intends it to be a gateway to the full legalization of marijuana.

Still, the bill met with stiff resistance, particularly from law enforcement groups. They complained other states with similar laws have reported problems like increased crime around distribution sites and forged medical cards.

Downstate law enforcement officials also said the laws prohibiting marijuana don’t stop people from obtaining and using it, so any legalization will make the problem worse, the Southern Illinoisan newspaper reported last year.

Technically, Illinois authorized medical marijuana in 1978. But implementation was left to the Public Health Department and it never took action, so the law has been in limbo.

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