The state of Illinois is in the process of implementing a highly regulated medical cannabis program for its sick and ailing citizens. The law, similar to those found in other states, allows participants to possess and consume up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis every 14 days. It covers 33 conditions, ranging from Alzheimer’s and ALS to Crohn’s disease, Lupus, and Parkinson’s. It even covers Tourette’s syndrome.
While Illinois’ list of included conditions is longer than that of many other states, patients with serious conditions that they believe are aided by consuming cannabis, but that are not included on the list, have become vocal in the state. In May, the state’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board recommended the inclusion of 11 additional conditions to the Illinois medical program:
- Anorexia nervosa
- Chronic post-operative pain,
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Neuro-Behcet’s autoimmune disease
- Neuropathy (peripheral and diabetic),
- Polycystic kidney disease
- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
- Superior canal dehiscence syndrome
The fate of this list of conditions lies in the hands of governor Bruce Rauner, who must decide by the end of August if he desires to expand the state’s new medical cannabis program.
Maureen Bake, a nurse in Chicago, recently asked,
“What’s it going to take? We don’t want to wait any more. This is not fair. We should have this choice available to us!”
Bake suffers from both fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. The former is a recognized medical condition in the state that entitles her to medical cannabis, while the latter is not yet approved.
Illinois resident Tom Surman suffers from three life-altering conditions, all of which are on the pending list: Diabetic neuropathy, PTSD, and migraine headaches.
“I don’t want to be a lawbreaker,” said Surman. “I certainly don’t want to be a lawbreaker…and get caught!”
Dr. Marc Sloan, a pain management physician in Illinois, believes that the additional conditions should be added so that the state’s program can better serve patients throughout the state. Dr. Sloan reported,
“I believe that we should make the drug available to patients that can benefit from it.”
Sloan advocates medical cannabis because he believes it is safer than most conventional pharmaceutical drugs. His primary objection to traditional therapies? “Side effects,” he said. “We have 2013 statistics that report no deaths related to marijuana and we have 18,000 deaths related to prescription opiates.”
Jessica Harshbarger, a medical cannabis advocate in the state, found relief in cannabis after years of suffering with extreme migraine headaches caused by a blood disorder. During a visit to Colorado to visit family, Harshbarger discovered the efficacy of cannabis. Her headaches simply stopped. Regarding her time in Colorado, Harshbarger revealed,
“I didn’t have a single headache the whole trip. I felt fantastic.”
Harshbarger and thousands of others are hopeful that Governor Rauner will approve the list, allowing her to legally consume cannabis to treat her debilitating migraines and maintain an active life with her children. She said she hopes the governor approves the conditions so she’ll “not have to uproot my kids out of school and move away to Colorado or somewhere else. I don’t want to have to be a marijuana refugee.”
Will patients and advocates celebrate a victory because the state decides to include sufferers of the 11 new conditions in its program? Only time will tell. Officially, the conditions are still “under review.”