Last week, Illinois courts and lawmakers changed the  course of the administration of medical marijuana for state residents with debilitating conditions and diseases. First, on June 28, 2016, Associate Judge Neil H. Cohen of Cook County Chancery Court ruled that the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (“IDPH”), Director Neil D. Shah, illegally denied a Petition to include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) as a debilitating medical condition within the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (“Program”). Plaintiff Daniel Paul Jabs, a veteran of the Iraq War, suffered from PTSD and had symptoms of “‘panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive memories, hyper-sensitivity to light and noise, over reactive startle responses,’ as well as isolation, mood fluctuations, anxiety and insomnia.” After providing the requisite documents at a public hearing before an Advisory Board, the board members unanimously voted to add PTSD and ten other medical conditions as authorized debilitating medical conditions under the Program.

Director Shah, however, denied the petition despite the Board’s recommendation. Judge Cohen found that Shah made a decision based on evidence from his own investigation, “without any textually demonstrable power to do so.” The Court found that Shah not only deprived Jabs of his right to due process, but improperly invented his own standard in rendering a decision as well. As a result, Judge Cohen “outright reversed” Shah’s decision – without remand – to avoid the “increase of the suffering of [Jabs] and other victims of PTSD.” According to Judge Cohen, there was sufficient evidence to show that PTSD victims would benefit from the medicinal use of marijuana.

Several other plaintiffs have filed similar lawsuits seeking to add chronic post-operative pain, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, polycystic kidney disease, osteoarthritis, intractable pain and autism to the list of treatable conditions.  If the plaintiffs are success in these cases, the number of patients in Illinois could rise dramatically.

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Just two days later, Governor Bruce Rauner signed SB 10 into law.  SB 10 accomplished several things:

  • extended the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program through July 1, 2020;
  • allows patients to obtain just a diagnosis of a debilitating condition rather than receiving a written professional opinion from their physician;
  • extended a patient’s registration for three years as opposed to only one, and without fingerprinting on renewing patients;
  • expanded medical conditions to add terminal illness, PTSD;
  • allows patients to petition the Department for additional conditions, which decision must be made within 180 days of petition submissions;
  • creates a new advisory board to “examine debilitating conditions or diseases that would benefit from the medical use of cannabis, and to review new medical and scientific evidence pertaining to currently approved conditions.”
  • allows the registering Department to waive the restriction against those who have violated a controlled substance law, if the past convictions were for possession, cultivation, transfer, or delivery of a “reasonable amount” of cannabis intended for medicinal use; and
  • allows qualifying patients under the age of 18 to have two designated caregivers under the Program.

With the passage of SB 10 and the case rulings, the number of patients, which currently stands at 7,900, is sure to rise even further.