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March 7, 2013

Is a "model" medical marijuana law been concocted in the laboratory of Illinois?

As all good law geeks know, in a renowned dissent in New State Ice, Justice Louis Brandies famously observed that "one of the happy incidents of the federal system [is] that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country."   This laboratory metaphor seems especially apt for what we see going on with marijuana reform in so many states; I especially like the notion that different states can and will refine their on-going social and economic marijuana experiments after seeing what works and does not work in other locales.

With that (social) science background, I found especially interesting this new local story from Illinois, which is headlined "House committee endorses medical marijuana pilot project."   Here is how the piece starts:

An Illinois House committee on Wednesday endorsed a proposed four-year pilot project to legalize medicinal use of marijuana.  State Rep. Louis Lang, D-Skokie, said if the project is approved, it would be the toughest medical marijuana law in the nation.  Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have laws permitting medical use of marijuana.

Lang, who is sponsoring the current version, said a similar measure that he unsuccessfully proposed last year outlined the toughest regulations ever written on the subject, and this year’s proposal “goes many steps further.”

“This is clearly model legislation for the country, if we were to pass it,” Lang said.

The proposal would allow patients diagnosed with specific conditions — such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV — to get a special ID card allowing them to buy limited amounts of medical marijuana from state-licensed dispensaries.

Patients and caregivers would have to buy marijuana from one of 66 state-licensed dispensaries, which would get the marijuana from one of 22 state-licensed growers. “The bill will allow very sick people to get a product that they need to feel better,” Lang said. “Their quality of life is at stake.”

Given that two states have now already legalized small quantities of marijuana for recreational uses and they only a few states have been eager to embrace very tough regulations for medical marijuana, I am not sure State Rep. Lang should be so confident that the legislation he has proposed is likely to be embraced by lots of other states.  That said, if (and when?) there is a move in Congress to start to back away from federal pot prohibition, perhaps those states which experiment with the toughest medical marijuana laws will end up getting a special gold star for their laboratory reports.

March 7, 2013 at 07:31 PM | Permalink

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