Illinois blocks bid to extend medical marijuana to PTSD and chronic pain patients

Emily Gray Brosious

Illinois blocks bid to expand medical marijuana access
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (Photo credit: Scott Olsen/Getty Images)

Illinois health officials reject efforts to expand medical marijuana access.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration will not be expanding the state’s list of health conditions that qualify for medical marijuana treatment, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.

Illinois Department of Health officials made the announcement Friday, saying the state’s medical cannabis program was still in its early stages and expanding the program would be “premature.”

Per 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,” department spokesperson Melaney Arnold 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 goes against recommendations from Illinois’ Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, which approved adding eight conditions to the state’s current list of approximately 40 medical marijuana qualifying conditions, as reported by WTTW-11.

The decision also comes as a blow to patient advocates and organizers that had been pushing hard to see eight new conditions, including PTSD, chronic pain, autism, osteoarthritis and irritable bowel syndrome, added to the state’s medical marijuana program.

Chicago resident and Vietnam War veteran Lon Hodge was among organizers who traveled down to Illinois’ capitol last week to deliver 25,000 signatures to the governor calling to add PTSD and seven other conditions to the medical marijuana program.

“It’s clear he’s (Rauner) setting up the program for failure,” Hodge told KMOX. “There are many veterans out there who really could use this in place of addictive and lethal drugs. It’s really a slap in the face of Illinois veterans.”

Hodge suffers from PTSD and chronic pain, and he says the governor’s decision to deny medical marijuana treatment to pain patients means many people must continue taking dangerous pharmaceutical painkillers to relieve their pain.

“When you meet the patients that I have met, who now use medical marijuana for M.S., people who’ve gone into comas because of too many medications given to them by the V.A. or military doctors, you get it,” Hodge told KMOX. “This isn’t a bunch of people who want to go into a clinic to be able to get high.”

Hodge is among a group of people who say Rauner is siding with pharmaceutical lobbies over patients’ well-being and over the advice of Illinois’ expert medical marijuana advisory board.

This is the second time Rauner’s administration rejected expanding the state’s medical cannabis program to include eight new conditions.

There is plenty of research to show medical cannabis is effective for PTSD and chronic pain treatment, and five Illinois residents are now challenging the state’s refusal to include these conditions in the medical cannabis program.

Daniel Paul Jabbs is an Iraq military veteran suffering with PTSD, who has filed suit against the state in an attempt to add his condition to the medical cannabis program.

“I’m flabbergasted,” Jabbs told the Associated Press after Friday’s decision from health authorities. “I think (Rauner) is intentionally stalling the program … He’s putting politics before people.”


View gallery: Medical marijuana report cards – How well do these states treat patients?

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*Category scores in the above gallery are out of 100 possible points each.State evaluations via Americans for Safe Access.

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