On Sunday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that will add seizure conditions to Illinois’ medical cannabis program for both adults and minors. The new law also allows parents to seek permission for minors to access medical marijuana for other qualifying conditions. Special thanks are owed to bill sponsors Sen. Iris Martinez and Rep. Lou Lang, and the many parents and advocates who tirelessly worked to make the bill a reality for seriously ill patients.
In other news, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules gave its final approval last week for regulations the three state agencies will use to oversee the program. A preliminary version of these rules can be found here, with the official version to be published soon. This important step finally allows the program to move forward. News outlets are currently reporting that patients may be able to sign up as early as September, although it is not yet clear when dispensaries and cultivation centers will be operational.
The rules are far from perfect. The Illinois program is by far the most expensive in the nation for cultivators, with a non-refundable application fee of $25,000, and a first-year license of $200,000. That means the Department of Agriculture will receive a windfall of $4.4 million for issuing just 22 cultivation center licenses during the first year of the program, not including application fees. Unfortunately, the enormous tab will surely be passed along to patients.
Last Tuesday, all eight members of the Illinois Senate Public Health Committee who were present at the public hearing voted to advance a bill that would add seizure conditions to the list of qualifying medical conditions to the state medical cannabis program. The bill, SB 2636, sponsored by Sen. Iris Martinez, would allow access to both adults and minors for this serious condition.
Unlike the 19 other states with workable medical marijuana laws, Illinois currently prohibits physicians from recommending the use of medical marijuana for seriously ill patients based on a seizure condition. It’s time for Illinois to stop leaving behind people with seizure conditions and the families that support them. Seizure patients and the parents of children with the condition should have safe access to a medicine that is safer than many pharmaceutical medications.