A court in Cook County, Illinois ruled last week that the Illinois Department of Public Health must add intractable pain as a qualifying condition to the state’s medical cannabis pilot program. Incredibly, the state has vowed to appeal the ruling and continue to shut pain patients out of the state program.
This is an outrage. A MoveOn.org petition is circulating that allows supporters to voice their opposition to the misguided decision by the state. If you agree the state should add intractable pain and want the state to drop its appeal plans, click here.
Patients and advocates have been working to add the condition to the state program since it went into effect in 2015. A panel of doctors and experts charged with considering new conditions voted unanimously to add pain, yet the health department refused to listen.
Even after a court reached the same conclusion, the health department continues to push back and deny access. As the nation struggles to bring a deadly opioid epidemic under control, medical cannabis should be an option for those who seek a safer alternative. Patients in Illinois should not be encouraged to seek relief from the underground market, when a regulated and tested alternative is available.
The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board agreed last week to recommend adding eight new medical conditions to Illinois’ medical cannabis pilot program. The conditions are chronic pain syndrome, autism, osteoarthritis, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain due to trauma, chronic post-operative pain, intractable pain, and irritable bowel syndrome.
The department previously rejected the advisory board’s recommendation that it approve 11 conditions. At the time it noted that the program was not yet fully up and running, but now with at least one dispensary opening this month, that reasoning no longer applies. Just yesterday, Harbory in Marion, Illinois became the first dispensary to open in the state.
These changes would significantly improve the state program. The medical cannabis program recognizes only a narrow range of conditions, and Illinois is in the minority of medical marijuana states when it comes to options for patients with serious pain. In addition, an increasing number of medical marijuana states recognize post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Seriously ill patients in Illinois should not be left behind. The state should listen to its team of experts and adopt these conditions without delay.
The medical marijuana issue got a big boost in Kentucky this week when a bill was introduced by House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg). The bill, HB 3, would make medical marijuana legal for Kentucky patients who are certified by a physician. It would task the Department of Public Health with establishing a patient registry, issuing ID cards to patients who qualify, and licensing and regulating dispensaries that would produce and sell medical marijuana for patients’ use.
Unfortunately, the bill is very restrictive in many respects. Although it covers a broad range of medical conditions, it does not allow patients to cultivate their own plants, and it only allows medical marijuana to be used in a non-smoked form. However, HB 3 is a much better bill than the very limited CBD-only bill that passed in 2014, and if implemented, it would bring great relief to many patients who are suffering needlessly.
Stumbo said he does not expect the bill to become law this year, but he told reporters that he sees the issue gaining support in Frankfort. "I think it's one of those issues ... that the more people learn about it, the less they fear it," he said.
The Illinois Department of Public Health began accepting patient applications today for the state’s medical cannabis pilot program. Applicants whose last names begin with the letters A through L may apply today through the end of October. Applicants with last names that start with M through Z may apply during the months of November and December. Beginning in January, applications for patient registry ID cards will be accepted for all applicants year-round.
Here are some useful links and information for patient applicants:
- Patients may sign up online here.
- For questions, the department’s Frequently Asked Questions are here.
- Patients may contact the department by phone at 855-636-3688, or by email at DPH.MedicalCannabis@illinois.gov.
- MPP has created resources for patients, including a summary of the law here, and a handout for physicians and patients who may have questions about medical cannabis registrations.
Applications for businesses are also now available. Final versions of the dispensary and cultivation center license applications, along with detailed instructions, are now available here. There is a narrow window to submit business applications. Both types of business applications must be received by their respective state agencies between September 8 and September 22.
The three departments that oversee the Illinois medical cannabis program posted several important documents online on Friday, including cannabis patient applications, which are available here.
Additional forms were also made available, including documents for physicians to use for recommendations, fingerprint consent forms, caregiver applications, frequently asked questions, and preliminary versions of applications for both dispensaries and cultivation centers. All those documents and other information are available here.
While they are available now, the department will not accept patient applications until later this year. Applicants whose last names begin with the letters A through L may apply between September 2 and October 31. Applicants with last names that start with M through Z may apply between November 1 and December 31. Beginning January 1, 2015, applications for registry identification cards will be accepted year-round.
The Department of Public Health also announced town hall meetings to answer questions from those who want to apply for patient registry IDs. Meetings are schedule to take place in Collinsville on August 14, Peoria on August 18, and Chicago on August 20.
The rollout of Massachusetts’ medical marijuana program has been proceeding more slowly than anticipated, but a major milestone was reached last week with the approval of 11 dispensary applications. The Department of Public Health granted eleven provisional certificates on Friday, and it’s possible that some of the approved dispensaries will be ready to serve patients before the end of this year.
The department had previously given preliminary approval to 20 applicants, but, after further review of the applications, nine were rejected. Massachusetts’ law authorizes up to 35 dispensaries, so these rejected applicants and others will be allowed to reapply in 2015.
Additionally, it’s disappointing that the state has not yet made it possible for patients to apply for ID cards. However, with dispensaries planning to open in only a matter of months, it seems likely that the ID card issue will soon be resolved.
Massachusetts’ medical marijuana law was implemented over a year ago, and now the state has granted its first 20 dispensary licenses. The Department of Public Heath received 100 applications and judged them based on proposed location and the ability of the dispensary to ensure public safety while simultaneously meeting the needs of its patients.
The law allows for 35 dispensary licenses; however, only 20 have been granted so far. More competition will mean lower prices for patients, so, the sooner the last 15 licenses are granted, the better.
Two pieces of legislation that will make changes to the state’s medical marijuana program have passed the Hawaii Legislature. Both of these bills found their way out of their respective conference committees and were approved of with bipartisan support.
H.B. 668, C.D. 1 transfers jurisdiction of the medical marijuana program from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Public Health and creates a “Medical Marijuana Registry Fund” to administer the program. This noncontroversial measure means that health professionals – as opposed to law enforcement – would have control of the program. The departments are already working on the transfer, which must take place before January 1, 2015.
S.B. 642, C.D. 1 amends the medical marijuana program. The amount of usable marijuana a patient may possess is increased from three to four ounces, and the mature/immature definitions have been removed allowing patients to have seven plants at any stage. Unfortunately, the bill would also change the law to only allow a patient’s primary care physician to recommend medical marijuana. If signed, it will not take effect until January 2, 2015, and advocates will work to fix this.
If you live in Hawaii, ask Gov. Abercrombie to sign H.B. 668, C.D. 1, approving the transfer.
The law overwhelmingly passed by Massachusetts voters in November officially went into effect on January 1, joining 17 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing the seriously ill to use marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. Nearly a third of the U.S. population can now access medical marijuana if they have a qualifying condition!
While the people of Massachusetts are generally quite pleased about this, local governments are trying to delay implementation of the new law until the Department of Public Health can establish regulations to govern the program.
Apparently, local leaders would rather continue to arrest the seriously ill than wait four months for guidance from the state.