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Illinois Health Officials Again Refuse Medical Cannabis Expansions

Despite weeks of entreaties from medical cannabis patient advocates and business owners alike, the Illinois state government has asserted that it will not expand the list of conditions that qualify patients for access to medical cannabis.

The decision was made by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration, and was announced by Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The announcement comes in spite of claims by business owners that the state’s medical program would likely fail without more qualified patients. Ganjapreneur reported on the issue earlier this year:

“Regulators in Illinois have reported $1.7 million in medical cannabis sales as of November, 2015, and there are an estimated 4,500 patients currently registered with the program. As things stand, however, the program is performing significantly worse than experts had originally predicted. Dispensary owners say they need to serve between 20,000 and 30,000 patients within the next few months in order to stabilize.”

Melaney Arnold, a Health Department spokesperson, argued that the medical program was not yet mature enough to be expanded, reports The Chicago Tribune.

“As patients have just started purchasing medical cannabis, the State has not had the opportunity to evaluate the benefits and costs of the pilot program or determine areas for improvement or even whether to extend the program beyond its pilot period,” she said in an email. “At this time, it is premature to expand the pilot program before there is the ability to evaluate it under the current statutory requirements.”

The decision not to expand the list of qualifying conditions flies in the face of the state’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, which recommended that eight conditions be added to the list, including autism, irritable bowel syndrome, post traumatic stress disorder, and osteoarthritis.

Dr. Leslie Mendoza Temple, who chairs the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, said she was “reeling” from the administration’s decision.

“I’m deeply disappointed. But I’m not surprised. The governor’s office hasn’t shown much support for this pilot program, and it shows in this blanket rejection again.”

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