Governor makes Illinois’ medical cannabis program permanent

Gov. J.B. Pritzker made the state’s medical cannabis program permanent and added to the list of conditions eligible to be treated through the program and during an event Monday celebrating that law, which he signed Friday, the governor signed another… The Center Square

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker made the state’s medical cannabis program permanent and added to the list of conditions eligible to be treated through the program and during an event Monday celebrating that law, which he signed Friday, the governor signed another bill into law to allow children with eligible conditions to self-administer the medicine at school.

Pritzker signed Senate Bill 2023 on Friday. That makes the state’s Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, which was enacted in 2013, permanent. It was set to end in 2020.

“This legislation brings our medical cannabis program in line with my administration’s vision for equity, and it makes adjustments for the lessons we’ve learned since its inception,” Pritzker said Monday. “As we continue to reform state government so it better serves its families, we must do so in a way that advances dignity, empathy, opportunity and grace.”

The law also adds autism, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, osteoarthritis, anorexia nervosa, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Neuro-Behcet’s Autoimmune Disease, neuropathy, polycystic kidney disease and superior canal dehiscence syndrome to the list of 40 other conditions that are eligible.

The new law also allows advance practice registered nurses and physician assistants to join physicians in diagnosing and certifying a patient’s eligibility for the medical cannabis program.

HCI Alternatives medical cannabis dispensary operator Chris Stone said making the program permanent will help the business side of things. He said expanding the program is vital for those seeking relief from chronic pain, migraines, autism and other conditions.

“To be able to allow them to be able to participate in the program so they can get off the medications that they’re taking now and to be able to get onto cannabis and some type of cannabis regiment, it makes all the difference in the world for a lot of these patients,” Stone said.

Maureen Surin’s daughter, Ashley, was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 2 and seizures at 3. After trying all kinds of different medicines with side effects, they found a doctor who said Ashley needed a low-carbohydrate diet and cannabis.

“And by gosh they were right and our daughter is now living and not surviving,” Surin said. “She was lost and now she’s found.”

She said Ashley has been seizure-free for almost 18 months.

“It’s like a miracle,” she said.

Beginning next year, Ashley and other children with eligible conditions, will be able to use cannabis medications at school under Senate Bill 455, which Pritzker signed Monday. That law will require a student’s parent or guardian to provide written authorization with other supporting documents to a participating school that their child can use medical cannabis. A nurse or school administrator can administer the drug, or the child can self-administer the drug under supervision.

Despite the updates to the state’s medical cannabis law, lawmakers may still make changes with the adult-use recreational cannabis law the governor signed earlier this year.

The recreational cannabis law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, allows medical marijuana patients to grow up to five plants at home. Law enforcement and municipal groups want more oversight of home cultivation.

State Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, said oversight issues could raise privacy concerns.

“I don’t know if we need to change that at all for home grow,” Morgan said. “I think medical cannabis patients throughout the state have been exceptionally responsible as we have not seen any issues in the last five years of abuse of the program. I would expect that to continue, but I think that’s an issue that will be continued to be discussed.”

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, opposed the recreational cannabis bill because of the home cultivation provision for medical patients.

“We have federal legal issues with it,” Butler said. “You have to listen to law enforcement’s concerns on this as well … These people on the medical program, they need it and I get it. But you also know what happens when you have excess tomatoes in your backyard when you grow too many tomatoes. It could be with five plants that could contribute to the gray market a little bit.”

National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws Illinois State Director Dan Linn said he sees home cultivation becoming less restrictive over time, not more restrictive.

“Ultimately I think that freedom and liberty will win and adults in this country and Illinois as well will be able to grow this plan if they want to be able to grow it,” Linn said.

Lawmakers could act on some followup legislation this fall.

The Center Square

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