Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed two bills on Monday that expanded access to the state’s medical marijuana program, which currently stands at over 80,000 patients. The legislation ensures the medical marijuana program’s status as a permanent system, and adds to the ways in which patients are able to access their cannabis.
“We’re telling each and every one of those patients, we’re on your side,” Pritzker said during Monday’s news conference.
Senate Bill 2023 ensures the permanency of the program and institutes 11 new qualifying conditions that are accepted for entry into the medical cannabis program. Those include autism, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, osteoarthritis, anorexia nervosa, and polycystic kidney disease, among other conditions.
The new legislation also guarantees the right of patients to be able to have a home grow operation of up to five plants as of January of next year. Under current provisions, the cannabis plants must be out of public view, and in a locked area. Effective immediately, nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants will be able to certify patients for inclusion in the program.
Pritzker continues to make good on his campaign promises to ensure the state’s residents’ rights to marijuana. In June, the state legalized recreational marijuana. That legislation has sidestepped many of the issues other states are having with providing retroactive justice to those with past cannabis offenses by expunging and pardoning the records of some 800,000 individuals with prior charges. It takes effect at the start of 2020, and will ensure that the state’s residents may possess up to 30 grams of marijuana at any time. For out of state visitors, the limit will be 15 grams.
Senate Bill 455, another change made to the state’s marijuana policy on Monday, involved the kinds of cannabis access allowed to kids in their schools. Now, underage registered cannabis patients will be able to take their medicine on school grounds, granted that they are being supervised by school staff. That bill also ensures that no one under the age of 21 will be able to purchase smokable marijuana in the state.
This is not the only expansion to the state’s medical cannabis program. In February, the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program was implemented, ensuring that individuals with opioid abuse issues have a fast track to temporary access of medicinal cannabis.
Medical marijuana was originally instituted in the state when Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation into effect in 2013. Originally meant as a four-year program, it was seen as one of the strictest such programs in the nation due to its ban on patients growing their own medicine. Medical marijuana users were required to have a doctor’s written recommendation, and obtain a registered photo ID. Patients were allowed to have 2.5 ounces of cannabis every two weeks, and pledge not to use it in public or around children.
“We are ensuring only those suffering from the most serious diseases receive this treatment,” said the bill’s sponsor, state senator Bill Haine at the time. “This law takes additional steps to prevent fraud and abuse.”