Lawmakers extend medical cannabis program to 2020, add PTSD and terminal illness

By Joe Longo, Assistant news editor

The Medical Cannabis pilot program will continue through July 1, 2020. Reaching an agreement with Governor Rauner Friday afternoon, lawmakers also added terminal illness post-traumatic stress to the list of qualifying conditions.

Illinois Deputy House Majority Leader Lou Lang released a statement crediting Rauner and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin with extending the program.

“I want to thank them for their cooperation to find a bi-partisan legislative compromise on improving a program designed to ease the pain and suffering of seriously ill individuals, including children,” Lang said in the statement.

Adding Post Tramatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and terminal illness to the list of qualifying conditions is a welcome sight for the medical cannabis community. Previously, Rauner twice blocked recommended conditions made by the Illinois Medical Cannabis Advisory Board.

The bill mandated that the Illinois Medical Cannabis Advisory Board be reconstituted and implement a new procedure for patients to petition new conditions for the program. Additionally, minors who are patients may now have  two caregivers.

Dan Linn, manager of Phoenix Botanical, eagerly received the news. Operating the first dispensary in Champaign-Urbana, Linn expects the less restrictive laws will increase their number of patients.

Formerly a major area of contention within the medical cannabis community, the new legislation eliminated doctor recommendations. Now patients only need a diagnosed qualifying condition and acknowledges Doctor-Patient relationship for the program.

In addition to removing recommendations, patient medical cannabis card are now validated for three years alleviates instead of one. Fingerprinting was also removed upon renewal of cards

For Linn, patients are alleviated from much of the stress in the renewal process.

“They were going to have to go see their doctors again, and sometimes they were travelling distances to see that doctor,” Linn said.

While the extension is a welcome sight, Linn hopes more governmental support will come for medical cannabis.

“We would like to see this program made permanent,” Linn said. “But definitely giving the patients a little bit more time to have access to this medicine (and) giving business like ourselves a little bit more time to be operational, we’re confident that down the road we will be able to make this pilot program a permanent one.”
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