The governor of Illinois signed a medical marijuana bill on Thursday, joining 19 other states and the District of Columbia in the U.S. that have already done so.
The legalization goes into effect at the beginning of 2014, granting 22 licenses to growers and 60 licenses to sell across the state.
“This is really an important day, I think, for healing in Illinois,” Quinn said, according to the New York Daily News, “for helping people who are dealing with pain every day, often times very severe pain.”
The Chicago Tribune reported on one individual who used marijuana to cope with the pain of spinal fusion surgeries. Mike Graham, who acquired the injury from football, was prescribed opiate painkillers to deal with the pain, but said they made him feel worse. Graham said he hesitated to use marijuana, due to the many police officers in his family.
“In a matter of days, I started to feel better. I could keep food down,” Graham said, according to the Tribune. “I thought, ‘Oh, boy, what am I going to say at Thanksgiving?’ But then they noticed that I could eat, so they knew something was up. … I hadn’t been there the three previous years because I wasn’t able to get out of bed.”
Illinois became the second most populous state to legalize medical use, after California.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Illinois lawmakers believe tight restrictions in the law will limit marijuana’s use to legitimate needs. Patients will need to prove they have a diagnosis such as cancer, HIV, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis. They will have to undergo a criminal background check. Public smoking will be banned, as well as smoking in a vehicle or near children. The law will institute a four-year trial program starting January 2014.
Despite the state’s legalization, possession, sale, and distribution of marijuana all remain federal offenses in the U.S. Recent legalization of recreational marijuana in the states of Washington and Colorado have tested whether the federal government will exercise its authority.
The Pew Center reported that the U.S. Department of Justice has been debating whether to enforce laws in states that do not enforce federal issues.
In Latin America, Uruguay recently moved one step closer to legalizing recreational marijuana, and it could become the first nation in the world to task government with growing and distributing it throughout the country, in an effort to combat organized crime.
Mexico’s former presidents Vincente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo have both called for legalizing the drug.
In Costa Rica, Medical Cannabis Costa Rica is pushing for medical legalization in the country. On Thursday, President Laura Chinchilla said the country was still not ready for legalization, according to a report by Amelia Rueda.