(Updates with vote put off because of lack of support)
By Renita Young
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. Nov 28 The Illinois General
Assembly on Wednesday put off a vote to legalize marijuana use
for medical purposes because the measure lacked the support for
approval, its chief sponsor said.
Democratic Representative Lou Lang did not request a vote on
his proposal because he did not want it to fail.
"He didn't call it because he was short of the votes," said
Lang's spokeswoman, Beth Hamilton. Lang had earlier predicted
the measure would pass if a few undecided members shifted to
The proposal for a three-year pilot program would make
Illinois the second most populous state in the nation after
California to allow medical marijuana. Nineteen states and the
District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Colorado
and Washington state voters decided on Nov. 6 to allow
recreational use of cannabis.
Lang said he could try again to pass the proposal when the
Illinois legislature meets in early December.
The Illinois bill would be the most restrictive in the
country, according to Lang.
Some Republicans in the Illinois House said they opposed
legalizing medical marijuana because it could be a "gateway
drug" to abuse of other illegal substances. Others said they
were not convinced that the benefits of smoking marijuana for
certain medical conditions outweighed the potential negative
Under the Illinois bill, patients would have to be
diagnosed with one of 30 debilitating medical conditions,
register with the Department of Public Health and have written
certification from their physician. Patients would be limited to
no more than 2.5 ounces (70 grams) of marijuana every two weeks.
Under U.S. federal law, marijuana is considered an addictive
substance and distribution is a federal offense. Federal law
prohibits physicians from writing prescriptions, so many have
issued "referrals" or "recommendations." The administration of
President Barack Obama has discouraged federal prosecutors from
pursuing people who distribute marijuana for medical purposes
under state laws.
(Editing by Greg McCune, Mohammad Zargham and Leslie Adler)