Medical Marijuana Pushed by Illinois Doctors, Patients

By Ted Cox on April 16, 2013 12:10pm 

 Multiple sclerosis patient Julie Falco said Dawn Clark Netsch considered medical marijuana before succumbing to Lou Gehrig's Disease. In the background is Dr. David Walters, who is also a cancer patient.
Multiple sclerosis patient Julie Falco said Dawn Clark Netsch considered medical marijuana before succumbing to Lou Gehrig's Disease. In the background is Dr. David Walters, who is also a cancer patient.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CHICAGO — Medical marijuana got a push Tuesday from almost 250 Illinois physicians who want the ability to prescribe it for patients.

"We need to replace the patient-dealer relationship with the patient-doctor relationship," said Dan Riffle, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project.

Julie Falco, a Ravenswood resident who suffers from multiple sclerosis, said marijuana greatly aids her treatment.

"I found something that helped me in cannabis," Falco said.

The drug should be legally available, she said.

"We are not criminals," Falco said. "We are just trying to get through the day with a better quality of life."

Falco said she recently got an email from a "Dawn" seeking treatment for Lou Gehrig's Disease and considering medical marijuana. That person died from the disease before she could see if medical marijuana might have help. According to Falco, that woman turned out to be Dawn Clark Netsch, the former state comptroller who ran for governor in 1994 but who died in March.

"It seems silly that it's not available," said Dr. Burak Gezen, a hospice physician who supports medical marijuana.

According to Riffle, medical marijuana is expected to come up for a vote Wednesday in the state House of Representatives in Springfield. He said the Illinois proposal would be the most restrictive in the nation compared with similar legislation passed in California and Colorado.

It would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana only for certain conditions, such as cancer, MS and AIDS, where other medications have produced unpleasant side effects. It would establish a state network of dispensaries and cultivation centers.

"This is just not a controversial issue," Riffle said. "I don't know a way to make this more restrictive."

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