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Illinois Governor Signs Bill Extending Medical Marijuana Program; Adds PTSD

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has signed into law Senate Bill 10, which extends the expiration date of Illinois’ Medical Cannabis Pilot Program through 2020 and adds post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of conditions that qualifies a patient to obtain medical marijuana legally.

illinoisThe changes to the state’s medical marijuana law, which took effect immediately upon Rauner’s signature, are co-sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie). Rep. Lang was the driving force behind House Bill 1, the act that first authorized medical marijuana in Illinois in 2013. When the medical marijuana law was first enacted, it included a “sunset provision” — a clause ending the pilot program on January 1, 2018. With Rauner’s signature, the expiration date of the program is extended by two and a half years until July 1, 2020.

Extending the duration of the state’s medical marijuana program — which is essential now to protect patients after the program got off to a slow start, delaying implantation for over a year — is not the only major improvement to the program with the enactment of SB 10.

How Senate Bill 10 Impacts Illinois MMJ Patients

Veterans and others who suffer from PTSD will now be eligible for medical marijuana in Illinois. Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that is estimated to affect eight million Americans annually, including many military veterans returning from combat, as well as victims and witnesses of violent crimes. To date, there are no pharmaceutical treatments specifically designed or approved to target symptoms of PTSD.

Several previous attempts to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the medical marijuana program failed. Earlier this year, PTSD was among eight medical conditions the Illinois Medical Cannabis Advisory Board recommended adding to the program, but the Illinois Department of Public Health, under direction from the administration of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, rejected all eight conditions.

“Veterans and others who suffer from PTSD will now be eligible for medical marijuana in Illinois.”

In 2015, Rauner vetoed a bill that would have allowed patients suffering from eleven different conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, to qualify for the state’s medical marijuana program. At the time, Rauner said that he did not authorize expanding the program to include additional ailments because the medical marijuana program had not yet been fully implemented and dispensaries were not yet open, and it would be premature to expand the qualifying conditions “before we have had the chance to evaluate it.”

The new law also adds language to the state’s medical marijuana law that allows medical marijuana access to those patients suffering from a terminal illness that is not explicitly listed as a qualifying condition. Under the newly amended medical marijuana law, a terminal illness is now considered a prognosis of six months or less to live.

In addition, doctors will no longer need to “recommend” medical cannabis to patients. Instead, they will now “certify” that there is a bonafide doctor-patient relationship and that the patient suffers from a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.

New MMJ System Extends Patient Licenses From 1 to 3 Years

Other changes made to the state’s medical marijuana program by Senate Bill 10 include making patient and caregiver identification cards valid for three years instead of one, eliminating a fingerprint requirement for patients and caregivers renewing their registration cards, and allowing minor patients to have two registered caregivers.

In addition, a new procedure for patients to petition the state to consider new qualifying conditions will be established.

Senate Bill 10 was first approved by the Senate on April 22 by a 57-0 unanimous vote. The House voted 86-27 to pass the bill on May 30. The Senate voted 50-7 to approve minor changes made to the bill in the House the following day.

The full text of Senate Bill 10 can be found here.

More information on the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program can be found here.