Illinois Senate Panel OKs Medical Cannabis For Epilepsy
SPRINGFIELD — Legislation that would allow minors and those with epilepsy to use medical cannabis in Illinois is one step closer to law.
A Senate committee passed the proposal Tuesday without opposition.
Sen. Iris Martinez is sponsoring Senate Bill 2636. The Democrat from Chicago says using medical marijuana improves the quality of life for minors suffering from epilepsy.
Supporters say consuming oil from the marijuana plant reduces seizures and doesn’t get children high. They say traditional epilepsy medicines are addictive and leave children feeling “stoned.”
Opponents say they’re against any measure legalizing marijuana use because it violates federal law. They also say legalizing marijuana for minors contradicts drug prevention programs.
The measure amending Illinois’ four-year medical cannabis pilot program moves to the Senate floor.
Representatives and clients from area Epilepsy Foundations made the trip to Springfield. Barb Verni-Lau, director of client services and events in Rockford, said the hearing was emotional.
The hearing included testimony from a doctor and parents of children with epilepsy.
“I’ve never been in anything like that,” Verni-Lau said. “I just know this is what we should be doing. It should be an option for them.”
Andrea Coleman of Loves Park attended the hearing. She’s 34 and was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 2.
Coleman uses marijuana to help with her seizures. It also helps stimulate her appetite, which is diminished by the medication she takes.
She gets bad migraines because of the seizures and went through brain surgery in 2010 that proved to be unsuccessful. She has a nerve stimulator that helps control the seizures by sending electrical signals to her brain.
Coleman said Tuesday’s hearing left her feeling hopeful.
“Just to be here, to see what’s going on and how far things have come with epilepsy,” she said. “As a child who grew up with it, if someone told me this would be possible, I wouldn’t have believed it. Things have come a long way from where I used to be.”
Register Star reporter Melissa Westphal contributed to this story: 815-987-1341; firstname.lastname@example.org; @mlwestphal