The Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (MCPP) is currently set to expire on July 1, 2020. A sunset bill would be required to extend the pilot program beyond that date or to make the program permanent. The governor has the authority to pick the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) who is the decision maker for the MCPP. Because this has to be done by an act of the legislature, it is also a good time to address flaws in the program and to correct them. Patients were asked to weigh in on their suggestions to improve the program. Patients were not shy about suggesting better alternatives for a more equitable program for all.
The top 5 suggestions were as follows:
- Allowing patients access to any dispensary in the state at any time. This would nullify the need to have to email IDPH every time they wish to change dispensaries.
- Add more qualifying conditions and/or do away with having to prove that they qualify. If a doctor believes a patient could benefit from medical cannabis, that should be sufficient. Several patients suggested that their medical records be annotated to demonstrate continued care for a qualifying condition for renewal. Many patients still find it very difficult to find a doctor willing to sign their application forms. The high cost of doctors’ visits just adds to the prohibitive cost of applying for a card.
- Control the cost of the medicine and cover it via insurance, especially medicaid and medicare. Many patients cannot afford it. They are forced to choose between buying their medicine and paying for their basic living expenses. Post product prices at dispensaries and on their websites.
- Employer protections re: cannabis drug testing. Patients should not have to choose between using cannabis and finding employment. They should not have to abstain from using their medicine to test negative for a drug test. The good news is that many employers are dropping cannabis testing. They realize they are excluding a lot of potentially outstanding employees when the US is at full employment.
- Reduce the wait time to process first time applications and renewals.
Other suggestions included:
- Allowing patients access to the products for examination before they leave their dispensary.
- Allow minor patients access to dispensaries, access to flower and access to vaping.
- Remove the annotation as a medical cannabis patient on drivers’ licenses.
- Improve the distribution of dispensaries throughout the state by expanding competition in underserved areas. In southern Illinois, many patients are forced to drive for several hours to access their closest dispensary.
- Expand the reciprocity of out-of-state cards to other medical cannabis states.
- Raise the possession limits without requiring patients to pay extra for a waiver. The patients most likely to need an increase in their medicine limit are cancer patients using RSO protocol.
- Allow commercial drivers, police officers and firefighters to apply to the MCPP.
- Allow patients to easily return defective products for credit at their dispensaries.
- Allow cultivators to interact with patients. They should welcome the feedback on their products and pricing.
- Reinstate the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board.
- Increase the number of employees processing applications at the IDPH.
- Educate doctors about the endocannabinoid system, medical cannabis usage and dosing, and their role in the MCPP.
- Dispensaries should offer products in smaller amount trial sizes so that patients are not wasting money on product that is of no use to them.
- Increase the number of caregivers for a minor, in case of emergencies.
- With the passage of Ashley’s Law, HB4870, which allows Illinois children to medicate at school, hire cannabis nurse specialists to help children administer their medication at schools.
And the most popular suggestion which the moderator repeatedly told patients was not on the table for the MCPP was…..Home Grow!
Please feel free to leave a comment with a suggestion that has not been mentioned in this post, but don’t mention Home Grow!