Republican contenders for U.S. Senate say they would not vote to legalize medical marijuana at the federal level, though one of them voted in favor of such a measure in Illinois.
Despite his support of legalizing medical marijuana in Illinois, state Sen. Jim Oberweis said the issue should not be addressed at the federal level.
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"The federal government needs to let the states individually decide how to handle the issue of medicinal marijuana," the Sugar Grove Republican said in a prepared statement.
His Republican primary election opponent, Doug Truax of Oak Brook, has a similar view on the issue, according to spokesman Dan Curry.
"His position is that it is a state issue, not a federal one," Curry said.
The two will face off in the March 18 primary election for the chance to take on longtime Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Springfield in November.
Illinois legalized medical marijuana last summer. Oberweis voted for it and after it passed the state Senate he told the Daily Herald, "The bottom line is: Who am I to say that they shouldn't be allowed to use that if in fact that will help them?"
Oberweis spokesman Tom Mannix said the state senator made his decision to vote for medical marijuana at the last minute after hearing debate on both sides of the issue.
But if it came up at the federal level, Oberweis would argue it wouldn't be Congress' place to legalize it. In a prepared statement, he said, "The federal government needs to let the states make decisions for themselves, the same way states get to set their own speed limits and handle their own economic policies."
Twenty states have legalized medical marijuana and two states, Washington and Colorado, have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.
If legalizing recreational use of marijuana came up at the national level, Curry said Truax again would argue to leave it up to the states.
After the measure passed in Illinois last August, Durbin said he did not believe legalizing medical marijuana should be national policy.
The Illinois law went into effect Jan. 1, but medical marijuana remains unavailable as state officials work through how to regulate growers and sellers.
Medical marijuana advocates predict it will be spring 2015 before patients can be allowed to use the drug here.