Illinois lawmakers pass major improvement to medical cannabis program, now on to the governor


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The Illinois General Assembly passed the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program Act yesterday during a whirlwind last day of its regular legislative session. If signed into law, SB 336 would allow those who could be prescribed opioid drugs to qualify for the medical cannabis program. It also dramatically improves current law by streamlining wait times and removing fingerprint requirements for patients.

This bill would provide welcome relief to thousands who need a safer alternative to harmful opioid drugs. For a summary written by bill supporters — including key changes to background checks and shortened approval process — click here. The final bill draft language is here.

A huge shout-out goes to the medical cannabis community, the warriors who worked so hard to make it happen, and primary bill sponsors, Sen. Don Harmon and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, and co-sponsors for their leadership and support. Thousands of lives could improve as a result.

But without the governor’s signature, it won’t become a reality. Gov. Rauner has 60 days from the day he receives it to sign or veto the measure, and he needs to hear from you. If you are an Illinois resident, please take a moment to voice your support for the measure with the governor’s office.

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Illinois: Two medical marijuana improvement bills are on the move


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The Illinois House of Representatives may soon vote on SB 336, which would allow those who could be prescribed opioid drugs to qualify for the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. Last month, the Senate passed the measure by a wide margin, but its future in the House is less certain.

If you are an Illinois resident, please take a moment to voice your support with your lawmaker today.

While opioids can be highly addictive and dangerous, many seriously ill patients across the country are opting for a safer alternative. Medical cannabis has emerged as an effective option for hundreds of thousands of patients around the U.S. Yet, Illinois’ medical cannabis law does not include pain as a qualifying condition. It’s past time to allow patients to use cannabis instead of opiate-based medications.

Another bill which would also provide patients welcome relief passed both chambers and is now on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk. If signed, HB 4870 would allow students who are registered patients to access medical cannabis at school under certain circumstances. While limited, it is an important improvement to ensure patients do not have to choose between their health and their education. If you are an Illinois resident, call Gov. Rauner at (217) 782-0244 and ask him to sign this important bill into law.

 

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Illinois Senate Approves a Safer Option for Opioid Patients


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An important medical marijuana bill emerged from the Senate yesterday that could bring welcome relief to seriously ill patients around the state. Senate Bill 336 would allow patients who qualify for opioid prescriptions to enroll in the state’s medical cannabis program. SB 336, sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Don Harmon and Chris Nybo, emerged with a strong 44-6 vote in support. The bill is now in the House.

Seriously ill patients should not be pushed towards some of the most harmful drugs available, particularly when there is a safer alternative. Studies in recent years have supported what many medical marijuana patients already know: medical cannabis can be an effective alternative for patients who might otherwise rely on opioid drugs.

Sen. Harmon’s bill would not only provide that alternative, it would also make other critically important improvements to the state program, including removing the current fingerprint requirement for all patients. Rep. Kelly Cassidy has already stepped in as chief co-sponsor in the House, along with over two dozen other House members who have joined with her as co-sponsors. But it’s crunch time in Springfield, and lawmakers are now working through the busiest time of the year — it’s important the bill continue to advance without delay.

If you are an Illinois resident, please ask your representatives to support this bill and to consider co-sponsoring if they haven’t signed on already.

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MPP’s Illinois Primary Voter Guide


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Primary Election Day happens tomorrow in Illinois, and voters’ choices will have a huge impact on the future of cannabis policy in the state. Lawmakers are now considering legislation to end marijuana prohibition and legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over. Illinoisans should take a close look at whether candidates will stand up for sensible marijuana policy reform.

We’ve done some of the work for you. If you haven’t voted already, please check out our Illinois Voter’s Guide to see where the candidates appearing on your ballot stand on cannabis reform. For more information, including where you can cast your ballot and when voting locations will be open, check out the state’s website here.

While elected officials are more supportive of legalization than ever before, we want momentum to build, and this year’s elections will have a big impact both in the legislature and in the governor’s office. It’s crucial that supporters of cannabis reform make their voices heard in Illinois.

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Illinois Bill Would Allow Patients to Substitute Medical Marijuana for Opiates


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Illinois State Sen. Dan Harmon is championing a bill that would allow individuals who are prescribed opioids to qualify for access to medical cannabis. His bill, SB 336, is expected to receive a hearing tomorrow in the Senate Executive Committee.

Hundreds of thousands of people are prescribed opioids in Illinois. These drugs carry a very high risk of dependency, and they can cause significant long-term harm including the risk of overdose death. Medical cannabis is now providing relief around the country and reducing incidents of drug ovedose deaths where it is available. But Illinois is one of only three medical marijuana states where pain patients don’t qualify, unless they have a specifically listed disease.

This bill would also take the sensible step of removing the requirement that medical cannabis patients submit fingerprints, provided they qualify under the new provisions. It is a huge first step for the many Illinoisans suffering unbearable pain every day.

If you are an Illinois resident, please tell your senator to support SB 336 and vote “yes” if it is placed before the senator for a vote.

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Illinois Vows to Ignore Court Decision to Add Chronic Pain to Qualifying Conditions


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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.

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MPP Releases 2018 Strategic Plan


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MPP is excited to be moving into 2018 at a time when marijuana policy reform has unprecedented momentum. While there are sure to be challenges ahead, MPP is confident that we will make great strides this year.

You can find the strategic plan here.

In a great sign of things to come, one of our goals is already on the verge of success. On Thursday, the Vermont legislature passed a bill that would make possession and limited home cultivation legal in the Green Mountain State! The bill is expected to be signed into law in the coming weeks.

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Cook County Commissioners Place Legalization Referendum on Ballot


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By unanimous vote, the Cook County, Illinois, Board of Commissioners approved placing a question about legalizing marijuana on the county’s March 20, 2018 ballot. Voters who live in the county will see the following question on their primary ballot:

“Shall the State of Illinois legalize the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?

Like voters across the state, Cook County voters appear to strongly support this sensible change. A March poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University found that 66% of voters in Illinois support a regulatory approach to cannabis control.

Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey put forth the measure, noting the obvious revenue boost cannabis taxation would bring to the county. But he said his real intent in supporting legalization is to end the disproportionate effect prohibition has had on communities of color.

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Illinois Governor Announces Opposition to Sensible Marijuana Policy


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In an interview with WSIL-TV in Marion yesterday, Gov. Bruce Rauner officially announced his opposition to ending the harmful policy of cannabis prohibition in Illinois. The governor wrongly claimed we don’t yet know the effects of legalizing and regulating marijuana for adults’ use, despite significant data available from states like Washington and Colorado, which both ended prohibition five years ago.

By announcing his stance, the governor is saying no to new jobs and to hundreds of millions of dollars (or more) in much-needed revenue for the state, and saying yes to allowing criminal enterprises to continue their control of a thriving and unregulated market. An estimated 750,000 Illinoisans consume marijuana monthly despite its prohibition — consumers who will likely continue to make illicit purchases whether it’s regulated or not. That money should go to our state and not into the pockets of drug cartels.

Chicago is one of the U.S. cities most closely associated with the failure of prohibition policies, and today, violence and harm continue on its streets. Instead of perpetuating a system that contributes to crime, revenue from taxing marijuana could be used to help prevent it.

Please make sure everyone in your network knows about Gov. Rauner’s misguided position. If you are an Illinois resident, please send a message to your lawmakers in support of legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana for adults.

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Travel Guru Rick Steves Joins MPP and Illinois Lawmakers to Support Legalization


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On Tuesday, travel guru Rick Steves visited Illinois to advocate for legislation to make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it similarly to alcohol. Steves joined Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and House Committee on Public Safety and Appropriations Chairwoman Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) for a news conference to discuss why Illinois lawmakers should support regulating and taxing marijuana. Immediately following the press conference, Steves testified in front of a joint hearing of the Illinois General Assembly.

From CBS Chicago:

“What we need to do is take that black market down and turn it into a highly regulated, highly taxed legal market so that we can gain credibility and focus on the real risk to young people in our society which is hard drug abuse,” Steves said.

Steves said prohibition does not work. He said this is not about being pro-pot. He knows it can be dangerous, but said it’s time to stop making it criminal.

His travels in Europe opened his eyes.

He also studied the effects legalization has had on Colorado and his home state of Washington. He said more people are not using it.

State Senators Kelly Cassidy and Heather Steans are the lead sponsors of the bill to regulate cannabis. They estimate legalization could generate up to $700 million for the state every year.

“It would enable individuals to buy and possess up to 28 grams or grow five plants, just for adult use,” Steans said.

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