Illinois Medical Cannabis Program Officially Expands And Extends

Governor Rauner recently signed the bill into law which expands and extends the current Illinois medical cannabis program. The program was started in 2013, as was set to run four years to end in 2017. Such a large undertaking took time to get off the ground and up and running, with Illinois not seeing actual medical cannabis sales until November 2015. The program would have only been left with a little over a year to show results and allow regulators and citizens alike to draw meaningful conclusions. State Rep. Lou Lang, the Skokie representative who championed this latest expansion effort, noted his efforts to extend the program were necessary because the year left “simply wasn’t long enough.” Legislators were able to agree on a 2 ½ year extension of the program, with the new sunset date of July 2020. Along with extending the program, this bill also update the way doctors interact with the program, and the conditions covered.

Cresco Labs’ own founder and CEO Charles Bachtell celebrated this achievement for Illinois saying, “It’s a very good thing for us.” Bachtell also noted the deeper meaning in this event saying, “It’s somewhat of an endorsement of the state saying, ‘You’re doing the right thing. We like what we’re seeing from the pilot program and let’s make some reasonable modifications.’” The bill increased the list of approved conditions from 39 to 41, by adding PTSD and terminal illness. Ironically just before this bill was signed, an Illinois judge ordered the director of the medical cannabis program to add PTSD as the result of lawsuit brought against the Illinois Department of Public Health. America’s veterans need all the support we can provide them, and this new treatment option will hopefully bring relief to many in need. Those with terminal illness should be granted access to a medicine which will not only treat their pain, but uplift their souls and allow them to make the best their time remaining.

The bill also made a small, but extremely meaningful, adjustment to the way in which doctors, patients, and the state interact. Previously doctors were required to sign forms from the state which not only recorded which condition the patient has, but also included wording which made doctors uncomfortable. This wording was in regards to patients receiving benefits from using medical cannabis and relief from their symptoms or condition. This new law removes all relief or benefit recommendations, and only has doctors certifying to the state that a patient has a specific condition. The state merely is left to confirm that condition is on the approved list. By removing the recommendation of benefits and relief, doctors will not be worried they are left out to dry for recommending a non-FDA approved medication or treatment. By going outside the FDA lines doctors would surely violate and nullify their malpractice insurance. This change in forms and doctor interaction are going to hopefully increase the number of doctors and hospitals willing to sign patient’s’ medical cannabis certification forms.

Do you think the state of Illinois is on the right track with these changes to the medical cannabis program? Tell us what you think in the comments below or on Facebook?

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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 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.

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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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Governor Rauner Voices Reluctance To Expand List Of Approved Conditions

Governor Bruce Rauner visited Lakes Community High School in Lake Villa and Lyons Township High School in La Grange yesterday, May 9, 2016, as reported by the Chicago Tribune. During his visits the Governor took questions, and was asked by a student about his thoughts on expanding the list of approved conditions for medical cannabis. This student was reported as having Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a condition which was already approved by the medical board but vetoed by the Governor previously in mid-2015. The Governor has twice previously stonewalled the medical board which recommended that her condition, along with a list of others, be added to the approved list.

cannabis-illinois-expand-approved-conditionsUnfazed by these setbacks, this brave young woman chose to keep hope alive that her condition will one day be covered, and took her opportunity yesterday to ask Rauner his thoughts on expanding the list of approved conditions. The leader of our state gave a disappointingly tepid response by qualifying that he wants to take the program forward, “one step at a time and see how the process unfolds.” This hardly leaves one with a high level of confidence that he will choose to expand the list this time around. If you believe the Governor should approve the board’s recommendations, then contact him today and let him know how the citizens who he represents want him to act!

The courageous young woman that questioned Rauner, whose name is Emily, has written a blog of her own about this event. Please follow this link where you may have the opportunity to firsthand read her story. It is clear to me that Emily has the kind of patient determination which will help move our state into an enlightened understanding of medical cannabis. Emily declares “Governor Rauner can continue to walk, but when it comes to medical treatment and advancements, I choose to run.” Governor Rauner needs to get it moving, and catch up to Emily and our state’s medical board!

Do you think that a legislator should overrule a medical board when it comes to expanding the list of approved conditions for medical cannabis in Illinois? Let us know in the comments below or on social media!

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