Illinois expands medical cannabis access

Springfield, Ill. — Gov. JB Pritzker signed legislation strengthening Illinois’ medical cannabis program, which provides relief to more than 80,000 patients across the state.

“This legislation brings our medical cannabis program in line with my administration’s vision for equity, and it makes adjustments for the lessons we’ve learned since its inception,” Pritzker said. “As we continue to reform state government so it better serves its families, we must do so in a way that advances dignity, empathy, opportunity and grace.”

On Monday, Aug. 12, Pritzker signed Senate Bill 455, which supports students who are registered patients in the medical cannabis program by expanding the means of administering medical cannabis products and permitting its use at school-sponsored activities or before or after normal school activities. 
The new law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020. It allows a nurse or school administrator to administer medical cannabis products and allows students to self-administer under the direct supervision of a school nurse or school administrator. 

A student’s parent or guardian must provide written authorization and provide a copy of the registry identification card of the student and parent or guardian. The Illinois State Board of Education and Department of Public Health will develop a training curriculum for nurses and school administrators, which must be completed annually.

The governor also signed Senate Bill 2023 on Friday, Aug. 9,  expanding and making permanent Illinois’ medical cannabis program. The bill went into effect immediately.

The law eliminates the sunset provision to the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program Act, adds 11 new conditions for eligibility purposes and expands the range of medical professionals who can certify eligibility of applicants to the program. 
Medical conditions that have been added as qualifying for the medical cannabis program include autism, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, osteoarthritis, anorexia nervosa, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Neuro-Behcet's Autoimmune Disease, neuropathy, polycystic kidney disease and superior canal dehiscence syndrome. The 11 new conditions join the existing 41 qualifying medical conditions under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program Act.
Instead of solely physicians, advance practice registered nurses and physician assistants can now join physicians in diagnosing and certifying an individual’s eligibility for the medical cannabis program. Expanding the range of medical professionals will help expand access to the program in rural areas of the state where geographic barriers may restrict access to the program.
The law requires the Illinois Department for Financial and Professional Responsibility to award remaining dispensary licenses using a competitive application review system, similar to that proposed in the adult-use legislation, including awarding points for participants who qualify as social equity applicants. It also prevents patient referrals to other health care professionals solely for the purposes of certification, prohibits the use and sale of smokable cannabis to persons under age 21 to align the program with the recently passed Tobacco 21 legislation, and repealed location restrictions for medical cannabis dispensaries as of July 1, 2019. 

Every county, instead of just Cook County, will now have the ability to establish a 3 percent tax on the gross receipts of sales. 

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