SPRINGFIELD — Chronic pain, migraines added to qualifying conditions for medical marijuana
Migraine headaches, chronic pain and autism were added to the list of conditions that can qualify patients for medical marijuana in Illinois, and doctors no longer are the only health professionals allowed to help patients gain access to the state-operated program, under a bill signed into law by Gov. J.B Pritzker.
After signing bills Friday and Monday tweaking a program that paved the way for medical-marijuana sales to begin in 2015, Pritzker said more than 80,000 patients with a variety of conditions have enrolled so far.
“We’re telling each and every one of those patients, we’re on your side,” he said during a Monday news conference at the Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation in Springfield.
The Democratic governor on Friday signed Senate Bill 2023, which makes the former pilot program permanent and immediately adds 11 qualifying conditions to the previous list of more than 50 conditions.
The bill, which passed overwhelmingly and with bipartisan support in the Illinois House and Senate, also allows physician assistants and nurse practitioners for the first time to begin certifying patients for the program. Only doctors had been allowed to sign the necessary documents.
Pritzker on Monday signed Senate Bill 455, which allows a nurse or school administrator to administer medical cannabis products to students and allows students to self-administer under the supervision of a school nurse or school administrator with permission from a parent or guardian.
For children to receive cannabis-related medical treatments at school, parents previously had to travel to their child’s school and administer the medicine themselves.
Jim and Maureen Surin of Schaumburg traveled to Springfield for the bill signing with their 13-year-old daughter, Ashley, who has received relief from seizures through cannabis-infused patches and a topical cream.
A federal lawsuit they filed ►the lawsuit didn’t allow anything. do we mean a judge ruled that … ?◄allowed a school nurse at a public junior high in the Chicago suburb to apply the cream, but SB 455 will ensure that the girl can continue to receive regular treatments when she goes to high school, Maureen Surin said.
“It’s like a miracle that our daughter is doing so well,” she said.
Bob Morgan, the Deerfield Democrat who sponsored SB 2023 and SB 455 in the House, said the bills will “stabilize the medical cannabis program” — ensuring steady enrollment and a steady supply of cannabis products for patients — as the state gears up for legalization of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older on Jan. 1.
Recreational customers will pay higher state and local taxes than medical marijuana patients for products in state-licensed dispensaries.
“These bills are about access to health care,” Morgan said. “With the governor’s signature, we are putting Illinois on a path for better health care, better health care outcomes, because of the availability of medical cannabis and a person’s medical treatment plan. … This is a big deal.
“We will not turn our backs on the patient population even as legalization dominates the news in 2020,” Morgan said.
The additional qualifying conditions were recommended by the state’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board created under the administration of former Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, but rejected by the administration of Quinn’s successor, former Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican.
Morgan said he doesn’t know how many patients might be added to the medical marijuana program with the expansion of qualifying conditions and health professionals eligible to certify that patients have a qualifying condition.
The addition of physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses was needed, Morgan said, because patients in rural areas have had difficulty finding doctors willing to assist them.
Cannabis dispensaries and cultivation centers could benefit financially because of the potential for increased demand, but Morgan said the “key” for his support of the bills was “making sure everyone who has an eligible condition can get access.”
A recent analysis of campaign contributions by the Chicago Tribune found that Morgan was among the state lawmakers receiving the highest amounts from marijuana cultivation companies. The Tribune analysis linked more than $25,000 in contributions to Morgan.
But Morgan, a lawyer and former director of the state’s medical marijuana program under Quinn and for six months under Rauner, said the contributions didn’t influence his votes or stance on marijuana policy. He took office as a state lawmaker in January.
“I take votes based on the values that I had coming in as an elected official and a candidate, and that has continued regardless of anybody on the outside and any action anyone else takes,” Morgan said.
HCI/Ascend Illinois, which operates medical-marijuana dispensaries in Springfield and Collinsville and a cultivation center in the Pike County community of Barry, commended state lawmakers and Pritzker for expanding qualifying conditions.
“Adding options like chronic pain and autism to the list of qualifying conditions will give potential relief to so many more people who have struggled with traditional medications, and making the medical program permanent will ensure patients have access to alternative pain relief for decades to come,” HCI chief retail officer Kim Kiefer said in a news release.
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