She has struggled with the symptoms of multiple sclerosis
She has struggled with the symptoms of multiple sclerosis for 27 years but it wasn’t until 2004 that Julie Falco found a drug that finally provided predictable relief. Marijuana, or as Falco prefers to call it, cannabinoid medicine, which she bakes into brownies and takes in doses of one inch-cubes, three times per day, helps her insomnia, quells the numbness and tingling and the otherwise unrelenting spasms in her muscles and legs.
“Above all, it helped with the depression,” said Falco, 48, of Chicago. “I didn’t want to commit suicide anymore.” Falco is impatient for a future in which she won’t have to tip-toe around to buy the plant that has largely replaced the array of pharmaceuticals she used to take. The state’s new medical marijuana law went into effect Jan. 1, but Falco and an untold number of other marijuana self-prescribers will remain at risk of arrest until state agencies establish a system of regulated cultivation and distribution by April.
The drug will only be made available to the seriously ill who must document their maladies and place their names on a registry created by the state Department of Public Health. “We hope state officials will work swiftly to ensure seriously ill patients no longer face legal penalties for using medical marijuana,” said Chris Lindsey, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Illinois patients and their families have already waited long enough.” Falco worries about the potential intrusiveness of the new law, the strictest in the nation, which requires three state agencies to establish rules for patient ID cards.
“The state is putting a lot of pressure on patients to go through the process,” Falco said. “There’s talk we will have to be fingerprinted, go through background checks. The state will have access to our medical records. “I have a lot of questions,” said Falco, “including ‘Gosh, am I still a criminal?’ I was on OxyContin and Vicodin and I didn’t have to get fingerprinted.” Other concerns include how prices will be set for medical marijuana − “We’re trying to keep it low cost or no cost for patients,” Falco said − and whether dispensaries will be located in safe, easy-to-access areas.
In Lake County, numerous towns are mulling zoning laws for possible petitions for dispensaries and cultivation sites. Some have joined a county-wide task force on the subject. State Rep. Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake, who voted for the law under a four-year pilot program, said that users “must still be aware that they can’t procure legally.” “Technically it’s still considered a federal offense, but because states are moving to decriminalize (cannabis) or provide it for medicinal purposes, the federal government is kind of in a quagmire,” Yingling said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually the U.S. Supreme Court makes a decision on the basis of state’s rights vs. federal law.”
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Author: Judy Masterson
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