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Oberweis: Constituents in support of medical marijuana

Published: Friday, May 24, 2013 12:39 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, May 25, 2013 12:29 a.m. CDT
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State Sen. Jim Oberweis

State Sen. Jim Oberweis said he's gotten quite a bit of feedback – mostly positive – after voting in favor of legalizing medical marijuana in Illinois last week.

Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, said he held a town hall meeting via telephone two weeks ago, and about 4,000 people joined the meeting at various times. He said he asked constituents whether they would support legalizing medical marijuana, and 66 percent of those surveyed supported the measure.

"Clearly there are a number of people who believe it will help them," he said.

Obwerweis also got positive feedback from an unlikely source – Pat Brady of St. Charles, who stepped down from his post as Illinois GOP chairman earlier this month amid pressures from state central committeemen, including Oberweis, over breaking with the party platform and openly supporting same-sex marriage.

Brady said he sent an email to Oberweis and other legislators, including Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, and Sen. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry, who also supported legalizing medical marijuana.

"I think it was the right vote," Brady said. "I know [Oberweis will] catch grief over it, but I think it's a good alternative for them. It will be heavily regulated."

Though the Illinois Republican party platform states that the party is committed to making "our communities safer through reducing crime and drug use," Oberweis said that statement refers to drugs that are not legal, and noted that the platform doesn't explicitly address medical marijuana.

The platform is more explicit about same-sex marriage, with the principal that marriage is between one man and one woman. Oberweis said there's "a world of difference" between an individual senator and the Republican party chairman openly supporting an issue that blurs party lines.

"The chairman is the CEO and is the leader, and in my opinion can have a different opinion from the party platform, but can't say it publicly," Oberweis said.

Eighteen states, along with Washington, D.C., have removed state criminal penalties for using medical marijuana, and Oberweis said he believes the bill proposed in Illinois is the toughest medical marijuana bill of any state.

The bill would limit patients to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana every two weeks. The bill also limits the drug to patients who have an ongoing relationship with a doctor or have one of more than 30 debilitating medical conditions, such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis or cancer.

"I think the majority of Republicans do [support the bill], but I've gotten a lot of positive response from some people publicly saying it, and some people saying, 'I'm glad you made that vote,' but want to be discrete," Oberweis said. "And there are some people who are unhappy."

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