The Senate offered a first reading on the bill April 18. Wednesday, the Senate’s Executive Committee voted 10-5 to pass the bill onto the full Senate for further consideration.
Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, was one of the five Executive Committee members who voted against moving the bill to the full Senate.
Righter said he has a variety of reasons for opposing the bill.
“First, there is considerable evidence in other states that the rate of young people illegally using marijuana is higher in states that have medical marijuana legally available,” Righter said. “Secondly, we are sending a message that ‘this is OK, this is safe.’
“I don’t think I want to be sending that message to young people,” Righter added.
Righter said most people seeking the benefits of medical marijuana could derive similar benefits from Marinol, a legal drug derived from THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, that is often prescribed to cancer patients in an effort to mitigate the effects of chemotherapy. The senator also noted there was little oversight folded into the bill.
“There isn’t going to be FDA testing,” he said. “In fact, there is nothing in this bill regulating the safety of this product.”
One of Righter’s Senate colleagues, Lebanon Republican Sen. Kyle McCarter, said the rights of parents to keep their children away from illegal drugs outweigh the needs of patients who can already have cannabinoids prescribed to them for various purposes.
“I’m sure the debate will include numerous stories about people in pain who could experience relief,” McCarter said. “Those are very touching stories. But there are just as many touching stories of parents who have seen marijuana use as an introduction to addiction that can result in death.”
McCarter’s daughter Amber died in 2006 from a drug overdose. The senator declined to discuss specifics of his daughter’s case, but he said he would encourage his fellow senators to vote against the initiative.