SPRINGFIELD -- A panel of state lawmakers Wednesday approved legislation to legalize medical marijuana in Illinois.
Supporters of the plan say it would be the most tightly regulated marijuana law in the country, restricting who can use the drug to people suffering from specific diseases and limiting the total number of marijuana dispensaries statewide to 60.
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"This is clearly model legislation for the country if we pass it," said state Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat sponsoring the plan.
An Illinois House committee approved it by an 11-4 vote this morning, sending the legislation to the full House.
"Why would we not help these people under very controlled circumstances?" Lang said.
The perennial issue in Springfield has yet to take hold, which is why Lang has had to tighten the proposed rules year after year.
Still, law enforcement officials continue to oppose legalizing medical marijuana and other critics worry the tight controls just won't work.
"One of the biggest concerns, of course, is highway safety," said Limey Nargelenas, a spokesman for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.
The tighter controls have won some people over, though.
State Rep. JoAnn Osmond, an Antioch Republican, noted that the issue has been around the Capitol for almost a decade.
"You worked with every issue I had a problem with," Osmond told Lang at the hearing.
Osmond voted for the legislation, showing the issue wasn't necessarily partisan.
State Rep. Tim Schmitz, a Batavia Republican on the panel, voted against it.