Judge Expands Illinois’ Medical Marijuana Program

An Illinois judge has expanded the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana.
Judge Expands Illinois' Medical Marijuana Program

It appears Illinois’ medical marijuana program will be expanded to new lengths following a judge’s mandate to include intractable pain as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, a move that is expected to make MMJ far more accessible in the state.

Illinois’ Medical Marijuana Program Receives A Much-Needed Boost

While the Illinois Department of Public Health had initially rejected intractable pain( or pain that doesn’t respond to traditional treatment methods), as a qualifying condition, Cook County Circuit Judge Raymond Mitchell overturned the controversial decision during a court session on Friday.

“The record shows that individuals with intractable pain would benefit from the medical use of cannabis,” Mitchell wrote in his final ruling, citing papers from two medical journals that together reviewed 45 clinical studies of medicinal cannabis treating chronic pain. The judge also added that the extensive studies found that any adverse effects of medical marijuana were, in general, not serious and well-tolerated by patients.

Rolling Meadows resident Ann Mednick, the woman whose lawsuit spawned Mitchell’s ruling, says she is prescribed opioid painkillers to deal with the extreme pain associated with osteoarthritis but wants a treatment option with fewer side effects.

“Illinois is years behind the times,” Mednick said. “The state needs to get [it] together.”

Last year, Mednick petitioned the state to add intractable pain as a qualifying condition but was spurned by Illinois Department of Public Health.

At the time, Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the health department, alluded to a clear “lack of high-quality data” from clinical trials, a note of contention that clearly differs from Judge Mitchell’s ultimate ruling. Shah has been a noted stickler when it comes to MMJ, and his unwillingness to include additional qualified conditions has been apparent since the inception of Illinois’ medical marijuana program in 2015.

However, Mitchell noted in his decision that Shah’s original ruling was “clearly erroneous,” and cited that Shah had previously mentioned that the condition was not listed in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, or ICD, but the disease is clearly listed as a form of chronic pain under ICD code.

While the judge ordered Shah to add intractable pain to the 40 or so pre-existing conditions, it’s unclear when the new measure will officially come to fruition.

A department spokesperson said Tuesday that the agency will ultimately appeal the ruling, putting the change on hold for the time being.

Final Hit: Judge Expands Illinois’ Medical Marijuana Program

While the subject chronic pain has been a controversial add for the state of Illinois, the plant has been somewhat of a godsend in other pot-legal states. In fact, the majority of MMJ patients in states that allow pain as a qualifying condition, currently utilize it for just that. This would, in theory, almost double the number of medical marijuana patients in Illinois when the bill is ultimately put into action.

Additionally, Mitchell’s ruling has prompted another potential change in Illinois’ medical marijuana program. State Senator Don Harmon has proposed a bill that would allow MMJ to be prescribed for any medical condition normally treated with traditional painkillers.

The Senator expects to see roundtable discussions on the proposal during the spring legislative session, which will kick off on Jan. 30. But for now, Mitchell’s current ruling should be considered a major win for current and prospective medical marijuana patients throughout the state.

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