There have been some extremely important changes in the MCPP in the past few days, including the creation of a parallel program known as the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program (OAPP). Before I get started, I need to give a shout out to Ali Nagib, long time member of IL NORML, National Organization of Reform of Marijuana Laws, for his help in explaining all the changes. He posted a video as well as a written version on the Illinois Medical Cannabis Community Facebook page.
I will start with the major changes to the MCPP with the passage of IL SB 336:
- Fingerprinting is no longer required
- Background checks are no longer required
- Those with felony convictions are no longer barred from the program
- Organizations can no longer charge patients to help them fill out their MCPP and OAPP applications.
This bill does not affect the fees charged by doctors for appointments to establish the bona fide doctor-patient relationship required to qualify for the programs.
There will be 2 types of Temporary Provisional Cards (actually a letter); one for new and renewing MCPP patients and one for the OAPP.
Illinois lawmakers appreciated that the backlog of applications that needed processing by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) became a big problem for patients. The wait time from submitting the applications to receiving the cards has been as long as 120 days. To solve this problem, there will be a Temporary Provisional Registration Letter sent to new and renewing applicants as soon as their applications and payments are received.
- This registration is good for up to 90 days. If you have not received your card within the 90 days, you can renew your provisional registration for an additional 90 days as long as you have responded to any inquiries made by IDPH. If it is due to a backlog at IDPH, you can renew with no problem.
- Patients can make cannabis purchases at dispensaries with their Provisional Registration Letter while they are waiting for their cards.
- The limit of 2.5 oz every 14 days remains the same.
- The IDPH created a new “Written Certification” for both the MCPP and OAPP applicants. The recommendation is for a single form for both programs, although it is not a requirement. The word “cannabis” has been removed for simplification.
- Doctors now have the capacity to inform IDPH if they feel that a medical cannabis patient no longer qualifies for the program. This may be due to a contraindication of medications or that the patient no longer has a qualifying condition. This is more relevant for patients in the OAPP.
Instead of making all existing patients of the MCPP automatically eligible for the OAPP, lawmakers created a separate, parallel track.
- Anyone 21 or older may apply
- Anyone who has received a valid certification for any medical condition for which opioids have been or could be prescribed based on generally accepted standards of care may apply
- Doctors can write a certification for patients to be eligible for the OAPP
- Temporary Registration Cards are good for up to 90 days
- Gives patients immediate access to dispensaries
- Doctors can renew registration after 90 days for another renewal period
- Same limit as MCPP; 2.5 oz every 14 days
There are still some problems to be worked out regarding doctors visits and establishing a bona fide doctor-patient relationship.
The bill passed in both the IL House and Senate on May 31, 2018. Governor Bruce Rauner has 60 days to sign it, veto it or take no action in which case it will become law. The bill has a provision requiring that the Rules be submitted by December 1, 2018. If things go as planned, the changes will go into effect by December 1, 2018.