SPRINGFIELD-After declining to take a public stance on the issue, Gov. Pat Quinn said Wednesday he is "open-minded" to legalizing medical marijuana in Illinois.
"I'm open-minded on that," Quinn told reporters in his office. "In this very room I had a veteran come in and several of his friends a while back. He was suffering from war wounds and found definite help by medical use of marijuana. And so I was quite impressed by his heartfelt feeling. You know, the Legislature has to vote on the bill, but I'm certainly open-minded to it."
The Illinois House is expected to vote on legalizing pot for the chronically or terminally ill Wednesday, said its lead sponsor, state Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie).
"I am hopeful of passage," Lang told the Chicago Sun-Times Wednesday morning.
Lang also told the Sun-Times last week he is "quite certain" Quinn would sign the bill if it reaches his desk. Yet, Quinn insists he will need to see a final product before he can endorse the legislation.
"I think we'll watch what the Legislature does today," Quinn said Wednesday. "Lou Lang is a very good friend. He's a very good sponsor. I've talked to Lou along the way about many bills. He's a fellow who understands how to pass laws, and I think if he needs help he'll let me know."
Meanwhile, Quinn also said a decision on gambling expansion in Illinois shouldn't be made until the state's pension crisis is solved.
"Pension reform is paramount," he said. "This is the issue that we must address and resolve between now and May 31, and we can. The bipartisan bill that passed the House, we need to keep moving on that one."
While the House has yet to actually pass a comprehensive pension reform bill, it has passed piecemeal measures last month to cap the salaries at which pensions can be calculated, increase retirement ages for employees under age 45, and limit compounding annual cost-of-living increases for all state retirees except judges.
Even with just more than a month and a half for the Legislature to act on pensions before the session ends, Quinn is optimistic.
"I think watching events here in Springfield over many years that lots can be done in six weeks," he said. "We want to have six weeks to change the world for Illinois."