Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill last week that will likely seal off the short-lived chance state prisoners had at legally (and awesomely) having their medical marijuana delivered to them by a corrections officer.

The move inspired at least two bizarrely inaccurate and/or defensive headlines in the press. The first, “Illinois Passes Law Banning Inmates From Using Medical Marijuana” from High Times is blatantly untrue. The bill in fact did not directly limit the actions of inmates at all, nor did it directly stop prisons from allowing their inmates to partake of some medical kush.

What it did do was correct a problematic situation for state prisons and jails. Medical marijuana is legal in Illinois, but of course Federal law says that marijuana is still a controlled substance. Consequently, if an inmate with an MMJ recommendation had asked his jailkeepers to hook him up with a little Gorilla Glue #4, they’d be in a zesty pickle, legally speaking.

If they say no, they’re open to possible lawsuits from an inmate who says they’re not getting proper medical treatment (something like that actually did happen in Canada recently and the inmate won). If they say yes, then they just violated federal law. And prisons are not such great places to be when you’re an ex-corrections officer doing time for violating federal law.

The Northwest Herald’s article “Illinois law protects police, jails when denying medical marijuana to inmates, arrestees” bears a headline that seems overly defensive and long, but what they’re saying is basically true. The new law undoes the legal loophole that would have sent prisons into a tizzy if any inmates had actually got around to thinking of it before State Representative Barb Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) did.

As far as we can tell, nobody in an Illinois prison or jail actually requested the C.O. delivery, but Wheeler bit in the bud (lol) when she introduced the bill which protects jails, prisons and police officers from civil penalties for not fulfilling their boys and girls in chains’ medical need for weed.

We’re not trying to talk smack about Wheeler (who is actually a medical marijuana supporter), High Times or the Northwest Herald. They just all seem to express the same confusion about medical marijuana that virtually everybody else (even yours truly) has: Just how medical is medical marijuana?

Even a government that allows a doctor to recommend it and a patient to consume doesn’t really consider marijuana a medicine, or at least they consider it a medicine less than they consider it narcotic contraband. Is that accurate? Or is it backwards thinking? And how much does that question even matter if state agencies are scared to think for themselves, lest the Feds pop handcuffs on them for working with a legal medicine?

Parker Winship
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