To those of you who are new to the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (MCPP), November 9, 2015, was an historic day in Illinois. If you have been a medical cannabis patient since sales began, you will remember how much excitement there was on that day as eight dispensaries opened to serve 3,400 patients. There was only flower available at first, but the fact that the dispensaries finally opened after years of delay made it an incredible day of celebration all over the state.
The program has come a long way since then, with many more types of products available, including RSO type oil, edibles, tinctures, topicals and even suppositories. There are now 37 open dispensaries serving 7,000 patients. As many of you know, the MCPP was set to end on December 31, 2017, if it was not extended by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Several qualifying conditions had been proposed and vetoed over the past 6 months and there were ongoing discussions as to whether or not the program would continue, long term.
Then, something seemingly miraculous happened. In late May, Senator William Haine sponsored legislation to extend the program in the form of Senate Bill 10, linked here, if you want to read the entire amendment to the program. The bill passed both the House and the Senate and was sent to Governor Rauner on June 6, 2016, awaiting his signature. He has 60 days to sign it and if he fails to act, it automatically becomes law.
Here are the highlighted changes:
1. The program has been extended for another two years to July 1, 2020.
2. PTSD has finally been approved as a qualifying condition along with Terminal Illness
3. The application fees for the MCPP are waived for every terminally ill patient
4. A doctor no longer must recommend that medical cannabis may be a beneficial treatment option for an applicant. His responsibility is that of confirming that a patient has one of the qualifying conditions and that a bona fide patient/doctor relationship exists.
5. Patient and caregiver cards are now valid for three years instead of one.
6. Fingerprinting is only required when first applying, but not upon renewal.
7. Minor patients may have two caregivers.
8. The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board (MCAB) will be reorganized with a new procedure created for accepting patient petitions for proposed new qualifying conditions.
9. Patients will only be screened for felony drug convictions; the passage of SB 2228 (Decriminalization of marijuana bill) will greatly reduce the number of felony convictions.
These important changes, especially the removal of a recommendation by doctors, should increase the patient rolls significantly and ensure that the MCPP continues for many years to come.