Illinois Medical Marijuana Patients Try Again

Back in May we reported the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board’s recommendation to include eleven additional chronic and debilitating conditions to the Department of Public Health’s approved list of qualifying conditions under Illinois’ Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. The Board’s recommendation paved the way for the Department of Public Health Director to add his stamp of approval. Then, after rule making, the conditions would fully be a part of the Act. In May, we were hopeful for the sake of both patients and industry participants that the new conditions would pass muster and the Rauner administration would sign off. Hopes were dashed, however, last month when the administration inexplicably rejected all of the Board’s recommendations, stating merely that the qualifying conditions would “remain unaltered.”

Illinois CannabisHope springs eternal though. The Act calls for the Board to convene twice annually to consider patient petitions for the addition of new qualifying conditions. The second meeting of the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board took place on October 7 and examined petitions to add autism, chronic pain due to trauma, chronic pain syndrome, chronic post-operative pain, intractable pain, irritable bowel system, osteoarthritis, and post-traumatic stress disorder to the list. Autism, osteoarthritis, and PTSD made the cut last time; the others are new and somewhat squishy, which raises concerns that they won’t hold up to DPH scrutiny. It is anyone’s guess whether DPH will seriously consider any of the petitions, or whether the entire process will again be an exercise in futility.

The Rauner administration’s refusal to expand the pool of eligible patients was very disappointing and maybe even illegal under the Act and basic tenants of administrative law. It might seem pointless to bother accepting and reviewing petitions given the apparently hostile environment at DPH, but the procedure is mandated by the Act. If DPH approves the eight newly-proposed conditions without comment this time around, that action would only underscore the arbitrariness of its first decision. On the other hand, continued refusal to approve conditions will keep the patient rolls small in Illinois, and may effectively kill medical marijuana in this state. But that might have been Rauner’s intention all along.

DPH now has 180 days to take final action on the petitions; we’ll soon learn whether the administration has changed its tune, or if it’s more of the same for medical cannabis here in Illinois.