The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, which is designed to help ease pain for people across Illinois who suffer from debilitating medical conditions, has been signed into law.

Illinois became the 21st state to enact such legislation when the measured was signed Aug. 1 by Gov. Pat Quinn.

The legislation includes some of the nation’s strongest restrictions on the cultivation, dispensing and use of medical marijuana.

House Bill 1 legalizes, with the nation’s strongest restrictions, the use of medical marijuana for people with debilitating medical conditions.

Scientific evidence has found that medical cannabis can provide relief from continual pain, nausea and discomfort more effectively than conventional medications for patients suffering from serious ailments, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and HIV.

The new law enacts strict restrictions on the cultivation centers to ensure professional licensing, 24-hour surveillance and inventory control.

There will be 22 cultivation centers, one for each Illinois State Police district. Each center must comply with local zoning laws, and be located at least 2,500 feet from day care centers and schools.

The dispensing of medical cannabis will also be tightly regulated.

Unlike some states, Illinois law will not permit patients or caregivers to cultivate cannabis.

Eligible patients may purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis every 14 days. There will be no more than 60 licensed dispensaries, which must comply with strict rules established by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

The law specifies 35 medical conditions for eligibility, such as muscular dystrophy, cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV/AIDS.

The prescribing physician and patient must have an established relationship.

Minors and people with felony drug convictions or psychiatric conditions do not qualify.

Patients may not be police officers, firefighters, probation officers or school bus drivers.

Patients who drive while impaired by medical cannabis face the same penalties as those who drive while impaired by prescription drugs.

Medical cannabis may not be used on a school bus or school grounds, in a correctional facility, in a residence used to provide childcare or any public place.

Landlords may ban smoking of medical cannabis on leased property.

Under the law, employers will maintain the power to ensure a drug-free work place.

Medical cannabis will be taxed at the same rate, 1 percent, as pharmaceuticals.

A 7 percent “privilege tax” imposed on the cultivation centers and dispensaries will be deposited in the Compassionate Use and Medical Cannabis Fund for the costs of administering and enforcing the act.

State officials said that it is estimated that each of the 22 cultivation centers will hire five to 10 staff members, each of the 60 dispensaries will employ 10 to 20 staff and hundreds of new jobs in related industries will be created.

In addition, the new law also bans campaign contributions from operators of cultivation centers and dispensaries.

The law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014, and is a four-year pilot program.

New law allows for medical use of cannabis in Illinois

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