Illinois Legislature
5:07 pm
Thu May 5, 2011

Ill. House rejects medical marijuana, conceal-carry

The Illinois state House has rejected a measure that would have allowed Illinois residents to carry a concealed weapon.

The bill's defeat - it got 65 of the 71 votes it needed - means Illinois remains virtually alone in barring people from carrying concealed weapons.  Advocates argued it would keep people safer, while opponents feared it would increase shootings.  Gov. Pat Quinn had promised to veto the measure.

Unlike most issues in Springfield, the concealed-carry issue divided lawmakers on regional rather than party lines. Most urban lawmakers like Chicago Democrat Ann Williams were opposed.

She was worried about people bringing guns to densely populated places like festivals, beaches and concerts.

"We keep calling it concealed carry, like it's a purse or something. But the reality is, we're talking about the concealed carry of loaded guns," she said.

Republican Jim Sacia of Pecatonica called Williams' concerns misguided. Conceal-carry would decrease gun violence and crime, he said.

"The red herring that's out there is we're going to return to the old West," Sacia said." Nothing could be further from the truth."

Also today, the House, for the second time this year, rejected the use of medical marijuana in the state.

The measure, sponsored by State Representative Lou Lang, a Chicago-area Democrat,  got just 53 of the 60 votes needed to pass, despite an endorsement from Republican leader Tom Cross who argued today that the measure would help those in need.

"Shouldn't we be able to provide to then the best relief and the best available source to do that?" he asked.

The bill  set up a three-year pilot program allowing people to take marijuana for relief from the pain and nausea of specific illnesses such as cancer and AIDS. Patients would have been allowed to purchase the drug from just 59 licensed, not-for-profit sellers, which prompted some organizations that had been opposed to the bill in the past to remain neutral this time.

Opponents argued that medical marijuana sends the wrong message to children and could increase illegal sales of the drug. Lang called that "outdated thinking."

"They all went to college and their parents said to them, 'you stay away from that marijuana stuff, it's really not good for you,'" he said. "And yet narcotics that the people who voted no want these people to take like Vicodin, Oxycontin and morphine leave them flat."

Lang could call the measure for another vote this spring. He believes he has the support, but must get colleagues to follow through and cast a "yes" vote.