On Tuesday, the Illinois Senate approved a key bill that would change the sunset date on the state’s medical cannabis program from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2020. The House approved the bill on Monday. The final votes on SB 10 capped off a whirlwind effort by lawmakers in the closing days of the 2016 session.
In addition to extending the program by two and a half years, SB 10 would allow patients with post-traumatic stress disorder or a terminal illness to qualify for medical cannabis. It would also allow doctors to simply state that a patient has a qualifying condition, rather than recommend cannabis. Finally, SB 10 would change the process for petitioning to add medical conditions and modify the composition of the advisory board.
The vote was over a year in the making, and while the measure passed both chambers by a wide margin, its success was far from certain. Special thanks go to Deputy House Majority Leader Lou Lang and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, who both worked hard to gain critical support from lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner. Thanks also go to the many supporters and patients who reached out to lawmakers.
Once received, Gov. Rauner will have 60 days to sign the bill into law. SB 10 is available here.
Over half a dozen dispensaries have been authorized to open today, finally bringing relief to medical cannabis patients across Illinois. The store openings mark the most significant milestone since the law was passed nearly two and half years ago.
So far, eight dispensaries are approved to begin operating. The Illinois Medical Cannabis Community reports that at least five are confirmed to open today, including Harbory (Marion), Herbal Remedies (Quincy), EarthMed (Addison), Salveo Health and Wellness (Canton), and the Clinic Mundelein (Mundelein). The complete list of approved dispensaries and their locations is available here.
The medical cannabis pilot program has faced challenges since the law went into effect in January 2014. The state missed its deadline for issuing business licenses, and fewer patients signed up for the state registry than many expected. Further, the state has so far refused to expand the program to include numerous additional medical conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), despite support from medical experts on the health department’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board.
State patients are entitled to some good news, and these store openings are a welcome relief. MPP wishes to congratulate those businesses that are opening, and we thank Rep. Lou Lang, patient advocates, and the Illinois agency staff who worked so hard to bring this program to reality. We hope the program can finally relieve suffering for Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens.
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.
Rep. Lou Lang recently introduced SB 1955, which would amend Illinois’ brand-new medical marijuana law. It would add important new protections for veterans and for patients who use non-smoked forms of marijuana, though it would also make some negative changes.
Many patients rely on non-smoked forms of medical marijuana, including edibles, tinctures, and topicals. These products use extractions from the marijuana plant, and SB 1955 would clarify that “resin extractions” are included in the protections of the law.
Meanwhile, veterans who receive treatment from the VA may not be able to qualify under the current law because the federal government doesn’t allow its physicians to make medical marijuana recommendations. SB 1955 would allow veterans to register as patients without including their physicians' written recommendations.
Unfortunately, SB 1955 would also remove two qualifying medical conditions – RSD and CRPS – which opponents believe might allow for abuse. However, causalgia would remain as a condition. Also, EMTs would be prohibited from becoming patients. While we oppose these restrictions, as a whole, we feel the bill would do more good than harm.
On Wednesday, in a 61-57 vote, the Illinois House of Representatives passed legislation that would remove criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana by patients with serious illnesses whose doctors recommend it. This marks the first time the House has approved such a measure.
House Bill 1, sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), would allow Illinois residents with certain medical conditions to possess up to two-and-a-half ounces of marijuana, which they would be able to access from one of up to 60 dispensing centers regulated by the Illinois Department of Licensing and Professional Regulation. Marijuana would be grown by one of up to 22 cultivation centers, one per state police district, regulated by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
We’re very excited about today’s victory, but the fight is far from over. The bill now heads to the state Senate. If you live in Illinois, please contact your senator now and urge him or her to vote “yes” on HB 1.
As Illinois lawmakers consider granting qualified patients legal access to medical marijuana, Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) took time to support House Bill 1 in the State Journal Register.
The two Illinoisans comprehensibly expounded on the bill’s contents, describing a heavily monitored system that could not only serve as a national model, but also raise revenue, help offset regulatory and law enforcement costs, and finance effective anti-drug campaigns.
More importantly, they reminded readers that behind House Bill 1 were real people:
Medical marijuana isn’t as much an issue of law and order as it is of basic human rights. But patients using medical marijuana should not be treated any differently from those who use prescription drugs obtained from a pharmacy. Together, these polices recognize public will, the safety concerns of our communities, and above all else, the needs of those suffering Illinois residents for whom marijuana is the best medicine in providing relief to help them manage untreatable pain in their daily lives.
We’ve come a long way, but we need your help to get over the finish line. If you live in Illinois, please ask your legislators to support medical marijuana, then send this message to your friends and ask them to do the same. Thanks!
This morning, the House Human Services Committee voted 11-4 in favor of legislation that would make Illinois the 19thmedical marijuana state. HB 1, sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), now moves to the full House of Representatives.
Last year’s bill, H.B. 30, came up just short of passing in the House. This year, prospects are brighter, thanks to a record supermajority of Democrats, who tend to support medical marijuana more than their Republican colleagues, and changes to the bill to satisfy law enforcement concerns.
Despite fears that the new bill might grant one company a monopoly on cultivation, thanks to input from MPP and our allies, the new bill will allow up to 22 growers and 60 dispensaries. Other changes make the new bill even more restrictive than H.B. 30, but it’s expected that improvements will be made after a four-year pilot program, as has happened in other states.
Let’s make this the year this bill finally passes. If you live in Illinois, please ask your legislators to support HB 1, and help spread the word by forwarding this email to friends and family in Illinois.