Rauner spikes medical marijuana expansion

By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration this week rejected efforts to expand by 11 the list of conditions for which marijuana can be prescribed in Illinois.

The move came in two parts, both announced Thursday.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said it would not add the conditions recommended by an advisory panel established under Gov. Pat Quinn.

The department made the announcement by saying only that its director, Dr. Nirav Shah, had made the decision and the pilot program would continue with the 39 conditions and diseases already authorized.

The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board had recommended these conditions be added: anorexia nervosa; chronic postoperative pain; Ehlers-Danlos syndrome; irritable bowel syndrome; migraine headaches; neuro-Behcet’s autoimmune disease; peripheral and diabetic neuropathy; osteoarthritis; polycystic kidney disease; post-traumatic stress disorder; and superior canal dehiscence syndrome.

Rauner, R-Winnetka, also vetoed Senate Bill 33, which tried to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the program by way of legislation.

Rauner said adding additional conditions or diseases, at least for now, is premature.

“The pilot program is moving forward, but remains in its early stage,” the governor wrote in his veto message.

“Cultivation centers are just beginning to grow their crops, and the first dispensary was licensed at the end of August. No patients have yet been served, and, consequently, the state has not had the opportunity to evaluate the benefits and costs of the pilot program or determine areas for improvement or even whether to extend the program beyond its pilot period,” Rauner wrote

So far, about 3,000 Illinoisans will be eligible for prescribed marijuana when it becomes available, possibly late this year.

Last month, Rauner used his amendatory veto powers to deny an extension of the pilot program from January of 2018 to four years from the opening of the first dispensary.

In his veto message of House Bill 3299, he instead suggested a four-month extension, saying that would cover delays in the program’s startup.

The Rauner administration and the principal proponent of the pilot program, Democratic Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie, are still discussing a possible middle ground.

Spending bill vetoed

Rauner last week also vetoed Senate Bill 2040, a Democrat-backed “essential services” or stopgap funding measure.

Democrats had said the bill authorized about $2.3 billion in spending and focused on public safety providers and life-giving services for the state’s most vulnerable citizens. They argued it did not send the state on a path of overspending in fiscal year 2016.

Rauner disagreed, saying the state must rein in spending and avoid piecemeal budgeting.

He said the measure “would have continued these bad practices for another month. Instead, we need a full year, balanced budget that makes only the promises we can afford to keep.”

The veto was largely procedural, as the measure was designed to cover July expenses.

Rauner and legislative Democrats remain locked in a budget impasse with the state now more than 70 days into fiscal year 2016.

Pension appeal dies

Attorney General Lisa Madigan, D-Chicago, announced her office would not appeal the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision that tossed out the state’s 2013 Pension Reform Act.

Madigan’s office had asked for and received a filing extension with the U.S. Supreme Court. That extension put the new deadline to file on Friday, Sept. 10.

Madigan spokeswoman Eileen Boyce this week said the attorney general’s office had carefully considered its options and decided against filing.

“After completing our analysis, we have decided not to ask the Court to review the case,” she said.

The Illinois Supreme Court in May struck down as unconstitutional the Legislature’s attempt to rein in Illinois state pension costs. Among other things, the act would have reduced annual increases in retiree benefits, raised the retirement age for younger government workers and capped salary amounts for pension purposes.

The court ruled the act would have have diminished or impaired the benefits of the contractual relationship between the state and its employees in violation of the pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution of 1970.

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