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Proposal To Legalize Medical Marijuana Stalls In Ill. House

UPDATED 11/30/10 - 12:46 p.m.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) -- An effort to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes in Illinois has stalled in the General Assembly.

The Illinois House debated the measure in Springfield on Tuesday, but the main sponsor, Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) pulled the proposal off the floor at the last minute when a vote came up just shy of the 60 votes needed for passage.

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House members had held an impassioned hour-long debate of the measure Tuesday afternoon.

The proposal, Senate Bill 1381, would allow Illinois residents to possess marijuana to treat the symptoms of AIDS, cancer, glaucoma and other illnesses, if the patient gets a note from their doctor stating they need to use marijuana.

Patients also would be required to get a license from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Medical marijuana could only be purchased at licensed medical marijuana dispensaries and patients could purchase only three medical marijuana plants.

But critics fear the proposal would allow people to use marijuana for recreational purposes and say it doesn't do enough to regulate the use of medical marijuana.

"In states that have legalized medical marijuana, evidence has shown us clearly that it is not about treating ailments and disorders, it is about making marijuana available," State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Greenville), a licensed pharmacist. "This should be called the marijuana possession bill."

But supporters say the measure would keep regulations in place to allow for the use of marijuana only for medical purposes. They say that traditional pain medications like codeine and oxycontin do not work for some people with AIDS, cancer and other diseases, while marijuana does work for some such patients.

"This bill is not about 16-year-olds looking to get a cheap quick high, this is about people who are in debilitating pain … looking for compassion, not a high; looking for relief, not a cheap high," Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago) said.

Opponents also argue that marijuana is a "gateway drug" and that allowing the use of medical marijuana would lead to the abuse of other drugs, such as cocaine and heroin.

But proponents said the "gateway drug" argument is hypocritical in a society where alcohol is legal.

"Alcohol is the biggest gateway drug there is and it's legal," said State Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood).

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