Illinois Board Recommends Adding 8 More Qualifying Conditions

After several long delays, the Illinois medical marijuana pilot program has finally started to get off of the ground. On Oct. 7, 2015, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced that it had approved approximately 3,100 patients for the program and the first harvest of medical marijuana is expected to be available in the coming weeks and months.

As the pilot program prepares to start serving patients, the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board has voted to recommend adding eight more illnesses to the state’s list of qualifying conditions.

Those illnesses are as follows: chronic pain due to trauma, chronic pain syndrome, chronic post-operative pain, intractable pain Osteoarthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, autism and post-traumatic stress disorder.

If Illinois were to approve autism for medical marijuana, it would be the first state in the nation to do so.

The board voted to recommend these conditions partly out of a desire to expand the state’s medical marijuana program and also in part out of protest against Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration and the Department of Public Health, which previously denied adding 11 illnesses to the qualifying conditions list on Sept. 10.

According to Rauner’s office, expanding the program would be premature. Joseph Wright, director of the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, told the Chicago Tribune that it is going to take time to expand the program.

Wright explained, “The Department must ensure that patients are receiving medical cannabis in a safe and effective manner under the current regulatory framework,” said Wright in an e-mail. “The Department will evaluate aspects of the program that can be improved upon as the program becomes more developed.”

Opponents of expansion are also keen to point out that the state already allows 39 illnesses on its list of qualifying conditions. Furthermore, there have already been approximately 25,000 people that have signed up to enroll in the program.

To those opponents, the issue at hand isn’t the number of conditions allowed, it’s the speed of bureaucracy.

But those in favor of expanding the program have argued that the state needs to do more to bring in additional patients. To some, 3,100 patients may seem like a large number, but experts have estimated that it will take approximately 100,000 medical marijuana patients to sustain the program.

Even if every patient that has already signed up was approved, there would still be a massive shortfall; however, it’s likely the state cannot currently accommodate a massive influx of patients, making expansion an issue concerning many officials. Nirav Shah, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, has the final say in approving or denying the newly suggested qualifying conditions, which will indicate the shape that Illinois’ medical marijuana market can take.

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