News Local/State

Measure Extending Medical Marijuana Program Passes IL House


A measure extending the sunset date for Illinois medical marijuana pilot program passed the Illinois House Monday, and now heads to the state Senate.

And the operator of of a medical marijuana dispensary in Champaign says the positive reception that the legislation is getting serves as proof that the program is working.

That comment from Dan Linn of Phoenix Botanical follows the agreement last week by Governor Bruce Rauner and legislative leaders to a plan that would push the expiration date for the state’s medical marijuana pilot program ahead 2 ½ years, to July 2020. 

Linn says the legislation would also change the way new patients are registered for the program.  Doctors no longer have to recommend marijuana for their patients– they simply have to certify a patient has a qualifying condition in order receive a medical cannabis card from the state.

Linn says this should encourage more of those with qualifying conditions to seek treatment: 

“They want to use medical cannabis, or in some cases they’re already using it illegally, but without that doctor’s approval, they were never able to submit a completed application,” said Linn. “Whereas now, as long as the doctor says ‘I am treating you, and you have cancer,’ the patient can use that information on their application and it should be sufficient.”

The extension plan also adds two more qualifying conditions to the list of 39 - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and terminal illness.

The state’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, which has been recommending conditions for treatment, will be ‘reconstituted’ under the measure granting the extension.   Linn says it’s unclear now how further qualifying conditions will be added. 

Meanwhile, opponents of extending the sunset date for the medical marijuana pilot program made their cases, too.

Republican Representative Jeanne Ives from Wheaton said tweaks to the medical marijuana pilot program should wait until the program hits its original sunset date at the end of next year.

"We need to let this pilot program work itself out the way a pilot program is supposed to under the original conditions,” said Ives, “then collect all the data and all the information and decide what changes need to be made." 

Despite such opposition, the Illinois House approved the plan on a 86 to 27 vote on Monday.

In east-central Illinois, Representatives Carol Ammons (D-Urbana and a co-sponsor of the bill), Dan Brady (R-Normal) and Chad Hays (R-Catlin) voted for the bill. Representatives Tom Bennett (R-Pontiac), Adam Brown (R-Champaign), Reggie Phillips (R-Charleston) and Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) voted against it.

The bill now heads to the Illinois Senate, where it’s expected to pass.