While thousands of patients across Illinois continue to wait for the state’s medical marijuana program to finally open up shop, a number of the state’s most prominent medical organizations have reportedly forbidden their physicians from providing certifications for those that qualify to participate in the program.
A new report from The Southern Illinoisan indicates that Southern Illinois Healthcare and the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, which includes the SIH Cancer Institute and the SIU Family Medical Center, are prohibiting their doctors from recommending the use of medical marijuana to their patients due to conflicting statutes that exist between state and federal law.
“The School of Medicine has internally discussed concerns related to lack of legal protection given the federal status of non-synthetic medical marijuana and lack of state legislative policy or protocol for prescribing it,” Rae Goldsmith, a spokesperson for the university, said in a statement. “At this point, there are no plans for developing a policy given the uncertain legal environment.”
Earlier this year, CBS Chicago reported that Illinois patients were having trouble getting their primary care physician to certify them for the medical marijuana program. One company that assists in pairing patients up with doctors who are willing to offer recommendations said that out of the 1,300 patients they have consulted, 900 come from doctors who refuse to write certifications.
The issue of physicians bowing out of state-approved medical marijuana programs over the risk of federal prosecution is becoming an increasing trend.
As of earlier this summer, only one doctor in the entire state of New York said that he planned to offer certifications for patients interested in taking advantage of the state’s medical marijuana program. Others declared that although they feel cannabis has many solid medicinal benefits, they are not willing to take a chance on having their practices raided by the federal government due to their association with a Schedule I controlled substance. There are also complications regarding medical marijuana not being covered under malpractice insurance.
Unfortunately, a great deal of the medical community’s apprehensiveness toward medical marijuana is the fault of the Department of Justice. Despite promises not to interfere with state medical marijuana laws—not to mention the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment intended to prevent federal funds from being used to prosecute the medical marijuana community—the federal government has not stopped swinging the hammer at dispensaries and patients that linger within the white noise of the law.
The latest statistics from Americans for Safe Access reveals that $80 million is still being spent every year by the government to shakedown and prosecute those involved with medical marijuana.
Therefore, until Congress makes a move to put a more concrete policy on the books, providing a prosecution-proof wall for law-abiding medical professionals, much of the mainstream healthcare community will likely maintain a safe distance from anything related to pot.
It has been over a year since Illinois’ medical marijuana law went into effect, promising to provide patients with access sometime in late 2014. However, due to delays in permits and a number of other excuses, the pilot program is reportedly still several months away from getting started. However, there are concerns that with major medical organizations refusing to participate in the program, the market will not have a strong enough customer base to sustain itself. As of this August 2015, less that 3,000 state residents have been approved to use medical marijuana, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner recently used his veto authority to shorten a proposed extension of the state’s medical marijuana program. It is now scheduled to come to an end in April 2018.