Women in Cannabis are planning to vote on Nov. 6, and not for Rauner

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OTTAWA — Carla Williams had a spinal injury as well as fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis and when she grew weary of narcotic painkillers she switched to marijuana — and never mind that it was illegal then.


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“I turned to marijuana, and this was before it was illegal, and it’s changed by whole life,” said Carla Williams of Ottawa.


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“When we go to vote, we’ll hopefully be able to make changes that will improve the program,” said Kirsten Velasco, education outreach coordinator for Illinois Women in Cannabis.


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“It’s been amazing for me,” said Amy Peterson of Ottawa, who suffers from fibromyalgia and PTSD. Peterson doesn’t want a psychoactive reaction, “I just don’t want to hurt.”


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But medical cannabis is legal and today the Ottawa woman can get pain relief without narcotics and without the high. And she has a message for voters: Make sure you consider cannabis when you pull the lever for a governor.

“I turned to marijuana, and this was before it was illegal, and it’s changed my whole life,” Williams said. “Since I’ve had access to medical cannabis I’m able control my symptoms much better, it’s cleaner medicine and it’s definitely more effective.

“It’s really given me back my quality of life.”

Williams was one of about 50 attendees at the Illinois Women in Cannabis event held Wednesday at Ottawa Boat Club. There, patients and advocates had a chance to rub elbows, talk about how medical cannabis is changing lives and to express their displeasure that Illinois hasn’t moved more quickly in making it available to those who are suffering.

“It’s been amazing for me,” said Amy Peterson of Ottawa, who suffers from fibromyalgia and PTSD. Like Williams, Peterson doesn’t want a psychoactive reaction, “I just don’t want to hurt.”

Such conversations once would have taken place in private or in dark corners, but times have changed. While Illinois hasn’t followed Colorado or Washington state into full legalization, decriminalization and the advent of medical cannabis has enabled patients, vendors and advocates to gather under one roof.

“We’ve had quite a few functions in the Chicago area but this is the first one we’ve had here,” said Shelly Flanery of Marseilles, chief operating officer of In-Grown Farms. “I think things are changing drastically, especially with the bill that was passed.”

The law in question is Public Act 100-1114, signed late last month. The bill expands the medical marijuana program and, critically, removes a fingerprinting requirement that kept many patients from applying for cannabis permits.

For some of those in attendance Wednesday, the law also was too long in the making. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner had taken a cautious, ease-into-it approach to medical cannabis and now Democratic challenger JB Pritzker is calling for loosing all restraints. It was clear who Williams and other advocates would vote for come Nov. 6.

Kirsten Velasco, education outreach coordinator, called Rauner’s slow pace “a horrible setback” and that a change in administration could expand access to patients in need. Meanwhile, she said, having powwows like Wednesday’s ease the stigma associated with cannabis.

“It’s hard to break the ice,” Velasco said. “It’s hard to get the conversation going. But once they do everyone’s really surprised how many people will say, ‘Oh, I’m a patient of myself.’

“When we go to vote, we’ll hopefully be able to make changes that will improve the program.”






Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or courtreporter@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_Court.

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September 13, 2018 at 08:37AM

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