Daniel X. O'Neil

In a long-coming turn of events, Illinois lawmakers last week approved an extension and expansion to the state’s medical marijuana pilot program, according to a Chicago Tribune report. Changes made include extending the state’s pilot MMJ program to 2020 and adding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and terminal illness to the program’s list of qualifying conditions.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state’s GOP leaders agreed to the changes, belying a significant Republican deference to marijuana’s medicinal qualities.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), thanked the governor and Republican lawmakers for their compromise and “improving a program designed to ease the pain and suffering of seriously ill individuals, including children.”

Other changes to the law mean that doctors will no longer have to “recommend” cannabis. Rather, they will only need to certify they have a standing doctor-patient relationship with an interested individual, and that the patient is diagnosed with one of the program’s many qualifying conditions. Additionally, patient and caregiver cards will now last three years instead of one, and the criminal background check process has been streamlined for medical marijuana card renewals.

“This is a great step in the right direction,” said Tim McGraw, director of the Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois and CEO of Revolution Enterprises, one of Illinois’ licensed medical cannabis producers. “The fact that Republicans and Democrats can agree on something is awesome. They deserve a lot of credit for seeing the light.”

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