Illinois doctors can start prescribing marijuana next year. Governor Pat Quinn signed a medical marijuana bill into law today, making the state the 20th in the nation to do so.
It’s a four-year pilot program where people suffering from one of more than 30 serious illnesses could get a prescription for marijuana. The law takes effect January 1st, but it could be months after that before patients can pick up their prescriptions. State-run dispensaries and grow houses need to be set up, as well as procedures for ensuring only those for whom marijuana is medically necessary are able to get hold of it. Logistics that still need to be worked out include running background checks on all staff members at dispensaries and surveillance at growing and distribution centers.
Governor Quinn signed the bill legalizing medical marijuana at the University of Chicago – the joyful crowd at the televised event included many potential recipients of medical marijuana. Jim Champion is an army veteran from Somonauk and lobbied lawmakers in support of the new law: he has found marijuana to be the best relief for his constant pain from multiple sclerosis. Champion said at the signing event that he is ashamed he has to break the law to cope with his debilitating pain. Now he feels vindicated.
While most at the signing celebrated loudly, Pamela Jones solemnly watched the ceremony from the back of the room. The nurse lost her father to liver cancer recently and says medicinal marijuana could have made him more comfortable while he was getting treatment.
“I think if this bill would have been in effect, maybe he would have been spared, he would’ve had a little bit of longevity in his life and possibly would’ve been able to live a more fulfilled life towards the end stages of his life.”
Supporters say Illinois’ law is the strictest in the nation and will prevent those who just want pot for recreational use from getting it from a medical dispensary. Restrictions include:
- Limiting recipients to 2.5 ounces every two weeks. It sounds like a lot, but bill sponsor Representative Lou Lang says that amount was chosen to accommodate patients who ingest marijuana through baked goods, not smoking.
- Patients must have an established relationship with the prescribing doctor.
- Medical marijuana licenses from other states will NOT be recognized in Illinois.
- Marijuana will be grown only in 22 growing centers and distributed through state-licensed dispensaries. No home-growers. Facilities will be video-monitored 24 hours a day.
A limited number of illnesses and diseases qualify for treatment with marijuana. The Department of Public Health could add more to the list later. Here are the diseases and disorders included in the law:
- Hepatitis C
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Crohn’s disease
- Agitation of Alzheimer’s disease
- Cachexia/Wasting Syndrome
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Severe Fibromyalgia
- Spinal Cord Disease (including but not limited to arachnoiditis)
- Fibrous Dysplasia
- Tarlov cysts
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Spinal cord injury
- Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Concussion Syndrome
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Arnold-Chiari malformation
- Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Tourette’s syndrome
- Complex Regional Pain Syndromes Types I (RSD)and II (Causalgia)
- Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Interstitial Cystitis
- Myasthenia Gravis
- Nail-Patella syndrome