Conceal-carry, medical marijuana rejected in Illinois House

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Jun 21, 2007
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The Illinois House on Wednesday voted down proposals to legalize concealed handguns and medical marijuana, potentially closing out two of the most controversial issues lawmakers faced this year.

The House turned back a measure that would have allowed concealed-carry of handguns in one of the last two states where it isn't legal. Supporters laid partial blame on Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who this week vowed to veto the bill if it reached his desk. The measure lost by six votes.

The House also voted down a proposal to legalize marijuana for regulated medical use by cancer patients and others. Opponents raised the specter of clashes with federal regulators who are increasingly cracking down on states that have experimented with the idea. The bill failed by seven votes.

Both issues have sparked battles in recent years, and both appeared to have their best chances of passage this year. Sponsors of both bills could bring them back for another attempt at passage, but time is running out. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn for the year at the end of this month, and the Senate hasn't moved on either issue.

The concealed-carry bill failed after an emotional debate that lasted well over an hour.

"We know the criminals have guns," state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, the bill's sponsor, told his colleagues in floor debate. "Let's quit discriminating against the law-abiding gun owners."

Opponents argued that more guns on the streets, even in the hands of licensed carriers, could turn everyday conflicts deadly.

"I know some people who will shoot a weapon at the slightest provocation," said Rep. Monique Davis, D-Chicago.

The bill needed an extraordinary majority of 71 votes to pass (instead of the usual 60 votes) because it would pre-empt local ordinances in home-rule cities. The vote was 65-52, with one "present" vote.

Illinois is the only state other than Wisconsin that doesn't currently allow concealed-carry, and Wisconsin allows "open-carry."

The medical marijuana bill would have set up a three-year pilot program that would allow patients to use the drug by smoking or eating it under strict guidelines, including providing the marijuana through non-profit dispensaries around the state.

The measure failed on a 53-61 vote, with four voting "present." It needed 60 votes to pass.

"This bill is not about drugs, this is not about marijuana, it's about health care," the sponsor, state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, told House members during floor debate.

Opponents argued that the potential for abuse, addiction and other dangers had not been adequately addressed. During the debate, Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Freeport, waved a clear plastic bag full of material that looked liked cannabis to demonstrate what the prescribed amount would look like.

"That's 10 to 13 joints a day," Sacia said. "Giving someone this much marijuana and believing it will not create problems is absolutely unacceptable."

Opponents also warned that the federal government's apparent move toward cracking down on states that have legalized medical marijuana should steer Illinois away from it.

The concealed-carry bill is HB148. The medical marijuana bill is HB30.


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