Illinois Medical Cannabis Program To Expand

Illinois politicians agreed this week on a bill to expand and extend the Illinois medical cannabis pilot program. A bill sponsored by Democratic State Representative Lou Lang was passed by the House on Memorial Day, and the Senate yesterday evening. The bill just made it through the process in time, as yesterday was also the close of the Illinois legislative session for the year. This bill, along with the bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis, now head to Governor Bruce Rauner for his signature. Rauner has indicated through his spokesperson that he will sign both bills into law sometime in the next 30-90 days. The bill will become law when it is signed, but there may be some lag in the issuance of updated doctor certification forms and rules from the Illinois Department Of Public Health.  Read below for a breakdown of the changes to the program:

  • Pilot Program extended to July 1, 2020.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and terminal illness added as qualifying medical conditions.
  • Patient and caregiver cards valid for three years, instead of one.
  • Upon renewal of patient and caregiver cards, no fingerprinting is required.
  • Doctors will no longer have to RECOMMEND cannabis and the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, but will simply certify that there is a bona-fide Doctor-Patient relationship and that the patient has a qualifying condition.
  • Minors who are patients may have two caregivers.
  • The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board will be reconstituted, and a new procedure created for accepting patient petitions for the addition of new conditions to the program.
  • Fixes a conflict in the law that threatened the lawful gun ownership of medical cannabis patients, plus more.

Rep. Lang issued a statement praising this success; “Governor Rauner and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin deserve credit for their willingness and commitment to reform and extend Illinois’ medical marijuana program. I want to thank them for their cooperation to find a bi-partisan legislative compromise on improving a program designed to ease the pain and suffering of seriously ill individuals, including children.”

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Illinois to Add PTSD & Terminal Illnesses to Medical Marijuana Program

Memorial Day represented a major victory for Illinois’ veterans as the state House, as expected, voted 86-27 to expand the state’s list of qualifying medical conditions to include PTSD and terminal illnesses.

The measure also extends Illinois’ medical marijuana pilot program to 2020. The program was set to expire at the end of 2017 and secures the industry’s next four years.

The measure now moves to the Senate and then Governor Rauner’s desk, and both parties are expected to approve the change and make the moves official. Perhaps spurred by community pressure to expand the state’s medical marijuana program, Governor Rauner changed his previously tepid stance on expansion late last week when he and lawmakers made some necessary compromises to finalize these now imminent changes.

Another major change in the state’s process will no longer require doctors to “recommend” medical marijuana for patients. Instead, doctors can signify that patients have a qualifying condition that needs treatment. This change gives security knowing their medical licenses won’t be at risk.

Moreover, patients’ medical recommendations will now last three years (opposed to the previous one). Additionally, minors may be permitted two caregivers instead of the previous one.

The additions of PTSD and terminal illnesses should stimulate the Illinois medical marijuana program’s growth and aid an important sector of patients. Those patients with terminal illnesses will have an expedited approval time of two weeks opposed to the standard six-seven week timeframe.

Medical marijuana for veterans recently secured federal support as Congress recently voted to allow VA’s to prescribe medical marijuana. Illinois’ expansion aligns itself with this new federal stance while recognizing that PTSD is one of the illnesses that medical marijuana can truly heal.

By the time Illinois’ pilot program becomes a permanent program or expires in 2020, the state could have a legal, retail cannabis market of its own.

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Illinois On The Brink Of Cannabis Decriminalization

Recently the Chicago Tribune reported the Illinois legislature sent a new bill to Governor Bruce Rauner, after being passed by both the Illinois House and Senate. If Rauner signs the landmark bill it will decriminalize small amounts of cannabis in Illinois. The change being that offenders with small amounts will not be arrested, but ticketed and fined, with their records automatically being expunged twice a year. In contrast the current situation today as “possession of up to 10 grams is a class B misdemeanor that could result in up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,500.” A similar bill was vetoed last year by Rauner, but his feedback was incorporated into this year’s bill which has many hopeful for his signature this time around. Rauner’s feedback was was to lower the decriminalized limit from 15 grams to 10 grams, and the max fine increased from $125 to $200. Seems more like typical politics in action rather than a genuine disagreement in policy or principles.

illinois-marijuana-cannabis-legal-intoxication-limit

The new law would also redraw the line for cannabis intoxication while driving. As discussed in a previous blog post in detail, drivers in Illinois currently are held to a zero-tolerance standard, as the presence of any amount of cannabis in the blood, urine, or saliva constitutes intoxication. The Trib reminds us that “a driver can be charged if any trace of marijuana is detected, even if it was ingested weeks before and the driver shows no signs of impairment.” The new law defines cannabis intoxication as a measured level above 5ng/mL in blood, and 10ng/mL in saliva. While these limits should not be the only qualification of intoxication, as reflected by AAA’s research, they are better than zero.

If you think Governor Rauner should sign the decriminalization bill then contact him today and let him know! Tell us your thoughts on this new bill in the comments below or on Facebook!

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