Medical Marijuana Is Coming To IL.

So, a friend of mine has started to blog her journey through the wonderful world of medical marijuana, and I have to say, quite honestly, that I am more than a little jealous of her ability to access premade edibles, whatever strain of cannabis she is interested in, and the safety of doing all of that in CA, where you can just walk into a respectable dispensary instead of finding out if a friend of a friend of a friend has a hookup.

Here in IL, the House and the Senate already passed “The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act” months ago… (like mid-May!) and we’ve all been impatiently awaiting Governor Quinn’s signature.  Our wait is about to be over.

Under Illinois law (Article IV of the Illinois Constitution, Section 9), if the Governor fails to sign or veto a bill within 60 days of receiving it from the legislature, the bill automatically becomes law.  Governor Quinn received the bill on June 5, and August 4th is only 5 days away.

CA is still way better than IL… at least when it comes to weed law.

Now, there are some serious differences between the laws in CA and the laws that will exist in IL if this bill goes into effect next week… differences that I think make CA’s program far better for patients.

1.) In CA, patients are allowed to grow their own plants, the limit being 6 mature or 12 immature plants.  HB1 would not permit patients or caregivers in IL to cultivate cannabis.  In fact, cultivation would only be allowed at 22 specific, strictly regulated cultivation centers (1 per state police district).   While I can appreciate that our IL lawmakers want to make sure that labeling, safety, security, and record keeping are good, it seems very “pro-business” to only allow patients to acquire their medical marijuana from state-regulated dispensing organizations, which would purchase cannabis from state-regulated cultivation centers.

2.) In CA, there is no waiting period between receiving a recommendation for cannabis and your ability to go to a dispensary to purchase some. In fact, there are “weed doctors” all over the place. You go to a doctor whose whole business is giving referrals, pay your $60-80 for your referral (assuming you have a legitimate condition), and can go straight to a licensed dispensary afterward.

According to HB1, patients in IL will need to get a recommendation from the doctor who handles the condition that necessitates the use of cannabis (meaning that I’m going to have to get my recommendation from my MS neurologist), then send a copy of the written certification to the Illinois Department of Public Health (DPH), and DPH would issue an ID card after verifying the information. (No idea how long it’ll take to get that bad boy in the mail.)

3.) In CA, no state-issued ID card is necessary. All that is needed is a physician’s statement saying that marijuana is “approved” or “recommended.”  In IL, patients must have a state-issued ID, or they will not be able to avail themselves of the protections of HB1 or able to purchase marijuana from a dispensary.

4.) In CA, epilepsy and seizure disorder patients are allowed access to medical cannabis. Cannabis is sometimes very helpful for folks with epilepsy and seizure disorder, but in IL, you must have one of the following conditions, or you’re not considered eligible for patient access: cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, cachexia/wasting syndrome, muscular dystrophy, severe fibromyalgia, spinal cord disease, Tarlov cysts, hydromyelia, syringomyelia, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Arnold Chiari malformation, Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA), Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, Myoclonus, Dystonia, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), Causalgia, CRPS, Neurofibromatosis, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy, Sjogren’s syndrome, Lupus, Interstitial Cystitis, Myasthenia Gravis, Hydrocephalus, nail patella syndrome, or residual limb pain.

5.) In CA, minor patients are treated just like adults if they have parental consent.  In IL, even if your child has terminal cancer, they’re not allowed to be a part of the medical cannabis program.  There is absolutely no reason, when the program is this stringently regulated by the state, that the arbitrary age of 18 should have anything to do with the use of medication to ease suffering.

6.) In CA, you can go to different dispensaries to decide which one you want to give your business to. In IL, a patient must designate only one dispensing organization where he or she would be able to receive medical cannabis.

7.) In CA, you can always use medical cannabis in the privacy of your home. In IL, it’s specifically stated that landlords can prohibit smoking on the premises of leased property… so even though you can’t use cannabis at a dispensing organization, in any public place, or in the view of minors, you also might not be able to use it at home either.

If you can’t use it in public or in private, where is it safe?

I guess there are always edibles.

Baby-steps Forward

The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act only sets up a 4-year pilot program here in IL.  This means that unpalatable features of the law (like “no use for epilepsy or for minors with terminal diseases” – or the inability to shop for a dispensary) may be changed in a relatively short amount of time.

As someone with multiple sclerosis who was able to treat her muscle spasticity and pain using specific strains of cannabis in CA (prior to moving to IL), this is a huge leap forward.  I am looking very forward to being able to procure this medication in a lawful way and to get exactly the kind of cannabis that I need. I can honestly say that the ability to make knowledgeable decisions about what “flavor” of cannabis I’m using makes a huge difference in the effectiveness of use.

I am also looking forward to once again have the ability to purchase edibles and to look into new vaporizer technology (like marijuana e-cigs).

But what if Quinn vetoes at the last minute?

If Governor Quinn decides to veto the bill right at the last minute (which I seriously doubt will happen), it might end up being law anyway.

IL Constitution, Article IV, Section 9(c) provides: If within 15 calendar days after such entry that house by a record vote of three-fifths of the members elected passes the bill, it shall be delivered immediately to the second house. If within 15 calendar days after such delivery the second house by a record vote of three-fifths of the members elected passes the bill, it shall become law.

In English (for those who don’t speak legalese): If Governor Quinn vetoes, the bill gets sent back to the House (who originally voted 61-57) for a second vote which must occur within 15 days. If, in this second vote, at least 71 representatives (only 10 more!) support the bill, it will move to the Senate (which originally voted 35-21). If, in the second Senate vote (which must occur within 15 days of the House vote), at least 33 representatives (2 fewer!) support the bill, it will be signed into law, regardless of the governor’s objections.

It doesn’t appear, however, that Governor Quinn actually has any objections. From everything I’ve read, he supports the measure.  The last thing he said on record was, “It’s an important bill. I’m going to look at the bill from top to bottom, as we do every bill.  But I’m very open minded on this.”

By choosing to let the bill become a law without his signature, Governor Quinn is making an astute political move — basically giving support to the measure while also taking the position that if things fuck up, it wasn’t his fault, since he had no opinion on the matter.

Smoke ’em if you got ’em!

Regardless of the many differences in law between IL and many of the other states that have compassionate use in place, having a program at all is a huge win for patients in the state.  It will help ease the suffering of thousands of IL residents.  (And probably create some really interesting food and art too.)

I am confident that IL will see a lot of benefit from having this program in place, both financially (from the 7% tax they are levying on cannabis) and criminally, as it will take business away from the black market.

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