Rauner agrees to extend medical cannabis pilot program

PTSD must be among qualifying conditions

By Cole Lauterbach
Illinois News Network 

On June 29, Gov. Bruce Rauner extended Illinois’ medical cannabis pilot program and added to the list of qualifying conditions. This comes just days after a judge ruled that post-traumatic stress disorder had to be added to the program, regardless of whether the state wanted to include it.

Rauner signed a bill that extends the program to July 2020 and adds terminal illness and PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions. A judge hearing a challenge to the program ruled June 28 that PTSD had to be included.

Plaintiffs attorney Michael Goldberg said Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah unlawfully kept PTSD off the list of approved conditions: “The advisory board made their decision unanimous. He could have looked at the record and just said ‘no,’ and it probably would have been OK. But he conducted his own investigation after it was over and found stuff that he claims was better. That’s totally outside of the process.”

Goldberg said he hopes the ruling makes the department re-evaluate its priorities. “It’s important the IDPH protect the health, safety and welfare of Illinois citizens. This decision is a way for the judge to call them in check,” he said.

No one at the Department of Public Health was available for comment.

Goldberg said the ruling could become a roadmap for other ongoing lawsuits seeking to include conditions such as autism, migraines and irritable bowel syndrome in the program. “It’s so well-reasoned and very specific that it will be looked at by other judges.”

Troy Dayton, CEO of cannabis industry research firm the Arcview Group, said the addition of PTSD to the list of conditions allowed under the program will help many people in need. The expansion should also help expand the market for medical cannabis in Illinois. Dayton said an overly restrictive program has resulted in too few patients to support the new cultivation and dispensing facilities.

Rauner vetoed legislation in September that would have added PTSD to the list of conditions qualifying under the medical cannabis pilot program. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD has occurred in up to 20 percent of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

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