Illinois: Medical Marijuana Panel Suggests 12 Health Conditions; Criticizes Governor

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Doctors, nurses and patients on a state panel that recommends whether to expand Illinois' medical marijuana test program on Monday suggested 12 additional health conditions for inclusion, and complained that their suggestions are routinely ignored by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.

A doctor who leads the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board said she isn't optimistic about the chances of expanding the program based on previous decisions by the Rauner Administration, reports Celeste Bott at the Chicago Tribune.

Board Chair Dr. Leslie Mendoza Temple said the advisory board is moving forward anyway. The board met on Monday in Springfield, and suggested that 10 previously recommended ailments receive approval, as well as two new ones, Type 1 diabetes and panic disorder.

Currently, 39 conditions and diseases can qualify patients to use medicinal cannabis in Illinois. The state's medical marijuana law allows people to suggest new diseses for the program twice a year.

Some at the hearing celebrated the diabetes recommendation, but board member and pediatrician Dr. Nestor Ramirez cautioned them to "wait for what the governor says."

"We don't get everything that we want on this board anyway, several times over," Dr. Temple added.

The Illinois Department of Public Health, under the Rauner Administration, has rejected the board's past recommendations. The governor, who inherited the medical marijuana program from his predecessor, has been reluctant to broaden access for patients, instead stonewalling by "calling for further study" (yeah, right).

Supporters said patient access to medical marijuana should be an issue of compassion, not science, arguing that people are suffering and should have to wait for "more research."

Farah Zala Morales, a medical marijuana dispensary employee, spoke on behalf of her daughter, Mira, 12, who has Type 1 diabetes. Morales said cannabis helped ease her daughter's discomfort and stabilize her blood sugar, so she didn't have to inject herself with insulin so often and could maintain good grades and play sports.

"She feels pain, burning sensations all over at the injection sites," Morales said. "She still manages to keep it all together and be an amazing person (even with) all this discomfort that she feels on a daily basis."

Panic disorders drew more support from the board. "Having the option, instead of just putting someone on four-times-a-day Xanax, would be very useful," said Dr. Eric Christoff, an HIV specialist at Northwestern Medicine.

The board rejected medical marijuana for persistent depressive disorder, Lyme disease and MRSA, a drug-resistant staph infection.

The other 10 conditions, which Rauner's public health agency has already rejected despite the board's recommendation and the medical evidence, were autism, chronic pain syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, neuropathy, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain due to trauma, chronic post-op pain, intractable pain, migraines and osteoarthritis.

Photo of Gov. Bruce Rauner: Marijuana Policy Project