Even in places where medical marijuana is legal, it is not always easily obtainable by those who need it. Whether it is due to their ailment not being on their state’s list of qualifying conditions or being unable to get to a dispensary because they are so few and far between, the point is that some states need to do more to when it comes to helping patients get access. One state that appears to be moving forward in this category is Illinois, where the House of Representatives just passed a bill to expand their Medical Marijuana Pilot Program.
Currently, there are only around 6,000 people registered in the Illinois medical marijuana program, which is well under what was originally estimated. The biggest issue for this state appears to be a limited list of qualifying conditions – which they have attempted to expand more than once already. The good news is that it looks as though there might finally be some forward momentum as the House bill will add PTSD and terminal illness to the list.
Even the Governor, who was previously against any sort of expansion to the list of qualifying conditions appears to be on board. The bill is now in the Senate for review; from there, if passed without any changes, it will end up on the Governor’s’ desk for a signature to enact it as law. Currently, it seems like this expansion will go through without much of a fight as it will likely bring new life into the pilot program.
Along with adding two additional qualifying conditions, the expansion would also keep the program open until 2020, where it was previously set to close in December of 2017. Patients have only been able to sign up for the program since November of 2015, so the additional time is definitely a necessity. Other changes include patient cards being good for three years instead of two, not requiring being re-fingerprinted upon renewal and also no longer needing a doctor’s written recommendation as long as there is proof of a qualifying condition and an on-going doctor-patient relationship.
All of these changes to the program will not only allow more patients access to medicine they need, but it will also help keep the program and dispensaries afloat. With the low number of patients, the program is struggling to survive. With an expanded patient base, it could thrive like programs in so many other states have. Hopefully, the Senate is on board for these changes and the bill will soon just be awaiting a signature. Even though the program is already available in Illinois, it’s wonderful to see it not sitting around unchanged any longer, when there was a clear need for such changes.