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August 1, 2013

Illinois governor signs medical marijuana bill

CHICAGO — — Illinois became the 20th state in the nation to allow the medical use of marijuana Thursday, with Gov. Pat Quinn signing some of the nation's toughest standards into law.

The measure, which takes effect Jan. 1, sets up a four-year pilot program for state-regulated dispensaries and 22 so-called cultivation centers, where the plants will be grown.

Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, focused his remarks on how medical marijuana will help seriously ill patients, including veterans, which have been a key focus during his time in office. He also played up Illinois' standards.

"It's important we do whatever we can to help ease their pain," Quinn said Thursday at a new medical facility at the University of Chicago. "The reason I'm signing the bill is because it is so tightly and properly drafted."

Under the measure, only patients with serious illnesses or diseases will be allowed to obtain medical marijuana. The bill lists more than 30, such as cancer, muscular dystrophy and lupus. The patients must have established relationships with a doctor and will be limited to 2.5 ounces every two weeks.

Currently, 19 other states and Washington, D.C., allow medical marijuana. New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan signed a medical marijuana bill into law last week.

Illinois' rules are among some of the strictest in the nation, according to Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project. The Washington-D.C. based legalization advocacy group tracks state laws and helps some craft bills.

For one, Illinois won't allow home growing operations like more than a dozen other states do. The growing centers will have to be under 24-hour video surveillance, which is uncommon compared to other states. O'Keefe said most states also have more general guidelines on who can obtain medical marijuana.

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