Illinois Tweaks its Medical Marijuana Pilot Program

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Photo via Flickr user North Carolina National Guard

By Joan Eberhardt

Illinois marijuana reforms

At the tail end of its legislative session, the Illinois House and Senate were able to pass a fairly significant package of reforms to the state’s ailing medical marijuana pilot program.

The package of reforms, which Gov. Bruce Rauner has said he would sign, extends the pilot program to mid-2020, adds PTSD and terminal illnesses as qualifying conditions, changes patient registration to a three-year term and only mandates that patient be fingerprinted once. More importantly, it changes the language so doctors do not have to recommend that a patient can benefit from medical marijuana, a doctor only has to state that there is a preexisting relationship with that patient; and the updated legislation removes language that had become confusing about a patient’s right to own a gun.

A little worryingly, the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board will be dissolved and reconstituted under Rauner, who has proven hostile to the program in the past. The Board, which has been comprised of volunteer patients, doctors and health professionals, has previously recommended adding ailments to the list of qualifying conditions and seen those recommendations disregarded by Rauner. Advocates still want to see more conditions added to the list, including chronic pain, but the addition of PTSD is a big deal especially because of the benefits it could provide to veterans.

But, Illinois is also slated to decriminalize cannabis possession across the state. The House voted to remove criminal penalties for personal possession. Persons found in possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis could see fines of up to $200 rather than the inside of a jail cell, which is certainly progress. What’s more important are the thousands of people who will not have a criminal record to follow them through the rest of their lives.

Ohio lawmakers legalizing cannabis before voters can  

Ohio’s legislature is likely to legalize medical marijuana before the voters get another chance. The Ohio State Senate passed a comprehensive medical marijuana last week, fulfilling a promise to send a bill to Gov. John Kasich’s desk before the end of the month. The governor is expected to sign the bill into law.

The House passed the same legislation two weeks prior, in a bid to pass legislation that is less permissive than may have passed at the ballot box. The law would prohibit personal growing or smoking, but patient would be allowed to consume oils, tinctures or patches. “Plant material” would also be sold in dispensaries, which have been licensed by the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy. While smoking is still technically illegal under this law, presumably vaping would be a legal use.

The legislation would allow for 20 qualifying conditions for medical cannabis use including chronic or severe pain, fibromyalgia, PTSD or glaucoma.The Ohio Department of Commerce would be in charge of writing rules for licensing cultivators, processors and testing labs. Licensed pharmacists would be required on-site at dispensaries.

Curiously, the Marijuana Policy Project, which had been working on its own medical cannabis initiative in Ohio, suspended its efforts in that state, despite the law not having been signed by Gov. Kasich just yet.
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