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Illinois Likely to Make Their Medical Marijuana Pilot Program Permanent

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There have been a lot of changes in the state of Illinois since they first introduced their medical marijuana pilot program in 2013. In 2016, just three years after the program began, there were only about 6,000 registered patients due to the extremely restrictive list of qualifying conditions. Currently, there are roughly 58,000 patients that benefit from the program, which is enough for some lawmakers to want to make the program permanent.

The bill introduced by Representative Bob Morgan would make the medical marijuana program a permanent part of the state’s law – as well as continue to expand the conditions that would be allowed under that law.

“We’ve had a (pilot program) that shows this is a safe program without diversion (to illegal use),” Morgan said. “It’s helping people who are struggling with serious medical conditions.”

One of the reasons that this was a pilot program rather than just an outright law is because of concerns over it leading to problems with law enforcement. However, after six years without any major issues – such as people selling or using medical marijuana without the proper credentials – some in the state are finally prepared to make this program something patients don’t have to fear losing in the future.

The new bill would add chronic pain, autism, migraines, osteoarthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and a handful of other conditions to the list of qualifying conditions.

“There aren’t any good alternatives, so if this is working for some people, go for it, let’s do it,” said Wendy Fournier, president of the National Association of Autism. “This is a potentially life-changing treatment for some people.”

The legislation would also make provisions for veterans who qualify and hope to use medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids or other medications to treat chronic pain or PTSD. Since there is still friction between Veterans Affairs doctors and the use of medical marijuana treatment, this could help open up access for veterans in Illinois to have a more direct path to medical marijuana.

Morgan has said there doesn’t seem to be much opposition to his proposal thus far,  and he anticipates lawmakers will approve the measure during the 2019 spring legislative session. This seems likely as the program has proven successful. And some lawmakers are even looking at taking legalization a step further, pointing out that the state already has the means to supply a recreational market as well with their medical cultivators and dispensaries.

It’s been a long road, but the Illinois medical marijuana pilot program has helped thousands of patients – and will help thousands more – as it continues to evolve and expand as a permanent part of the state law.

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