Illinois Prepares for Medical Marijuana Upgrade

Although the Illinois medical marijuana pilot program came limping out of the gate last year, the state’s General Assembly has put its stamp of approval on a bill aimed at upgrading the state of cannabis medicine by extending the program’s expiration date and giving those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and terminal illnesses permission to participate.

The guts of this modest expansion effort consist of Senate Bill 10, a proposal begging Governor Bruce Rauner not to kill off the state’s medical marijuana program for a few more years. When the Illinois Medical Cannabis Program was pushed through back in 2013, it came marred with a “sunset provision” that insisted the state had until the beginning of 2018 to test the waters of cannabis medicine before deciding whether to sign on a more permanent plan. If the governor signs the latest measure, which is expected, the pilot program would remain on the books until the summer of 2020, not to mention give thousands more patients an opportunity to use medical marijuana as part of their overall healthcare strategy.

One particular group of patients that stands to benefit greatly from the expansion is military veterans. Despite the state’s willingness to provide vets with access to weed without a recommendation from a doctor employed through the Department of Veterans Affairs, many of these people have been unable to participate because PTSD is not covered under the original pilot program. However, the new bill would tear down this barrier, giving veterans who suffer from this severe anxiety disorder a safer alternative to pharmaceutical drugs.

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