An Illinois House committee has forwarded legislation to the full House that would make marijuana for medicinal purposes legal in this state.

A number of states – Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington among them – have decriminalized marijuana when it is used for medical purposes.

Although more states are considering similar legislation, we urge Illinois lawmakers to defeat this measure.

We acknowledge that marijuana use likely has some medical benefits.  Limited studies have shown that it can improve conditions related to appetite loss, nausea and vomiting and help ease pain caused by arthritis and other conditions.

But other, FDA-approved drugs already are available to treat each of these ailments.

And smoking marijuana regularly also can cause serious health problems.  It can damage brain cells and cells in bronchial passages, which can hurt a person’s immune system.  There also is not enough data to conclusively show what the long-term health effects of regular marijuana use are.

Finally, any medical benefits that legalizing pot would have are outweighed by the societal problems it could create.

Marijuana is a gateway drug that can lead users to try more dangerous, addictive drugs, creating a greater burden on an already-stressed health care system.

Marijuana users who drive are impaired, increasing the chances of serious automobile accidents similar to drunk-driving related accidents.

Legalization increases the chances of the drug falling into the hands of children and others who don’t need it for medical reasons.  It also sends a message to children that drug use is OK.

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