Doctors Want Input In Illinois Marijuana Debate | WGLT

Doctors Want Input In Illinois Marijuana Debate

Feb 28, 2019

A Bloomington doctor who will soon head the Illinois State Medical Society said the physicians group has concerns about the state's efforts to legalize recreational marijuana, but the group hasn’t yet taken a formal stance.

Paul Pedersen, the chief medical officer at OSF Saint Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington and president-elect of the ISMS, said if Illinois lawmakers make pot legal, doctors want a seat at the table to help guide the discussion.

“Having input into those processes is something that the Illinois State Medical Society would like to have, even though we share the concern of the medical community over legalizing that,” Pedersen said.

Pedersen said doctors fear marijuana is highly addictive, impairs its users and might be a gateway to more powerful drugs. He said cannabis' true effects aren't clear since the government won't study a banned substance.

“You can’t do a controlled study on disease processes because it’s federally banned,” Pedersen said.

The medical society plans to stage a debate on the pros and cons of legal pot at its annual meeting in Peoria on April 6 before the group takes a formal stance.

Smoking 21

Pedersen has advocated for Illinois to pass a ban against buying tobacco products before age 21 and recently testified before the Illinois legislature.

He projects smoking rates would be cut in half since most start lighting up before turning 21.

“If advanced to 21 years of age, it makes logical sense in preventing those folks (from smoking), because very few 15, 16 and 17-year-olds actually interact with 21, 22 and 23-year-olds.

Pedersen noted both of his parents died of cancer caused by smoking.

Illinois passed a Tobacco 21 bill last year, but then-Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it. Normal raised the legal buying age to 21 on its own.

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