Cook County Judge Raymond Mitchell recently ordered the Illinois Department of Public Heath to add intractable pain as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.[1]  The order arose out of plaintiff Ann Mednick’s lawsuit alleging a lack of access to medical marijuana, rather than opioid pills with increased side effects, to treat her osteoarthritis.[2]  This ruling has the potential to greatly expand medical marijuana’s reach within the State.

Illinois currently has very strict limitations in terms of what medical conditions fall under qualifying conditions to have access to medical marijuana.  Of those states which have medical marijuana legislation, Illinois falls in the minority as most already have some form of intractable, or chronic, pain included as a qualifying condition.  Under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act the State of Illinois lists approximately 40 qualifying conditions including conditions such as cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.[3]  While a condition like rheumatoid arthritis qualifies under Illinois law, osteoarthritis does not.

Results of the ruling are yet to be seen as Judge Mitchell did not indicate the timeframe when intractable pain must be added as a qualifying condition, but it is a sign of medical marijuana in Illinois expanding to become more inclusive.[4]  The expansion is further demonstrated by Illinois State Senator Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, who has submitted a bill allowing marijuana to be used in conjunction with, or as a substitution for, prescription opioid pain pills in an effort to cut down on the current prescription drug addiction epidemic.[5]

And HB4276, the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act which allows marijuana to be used recreationally and be regulated similar to alcohol, is currently pending.  It is unlikely Governor Rauner would sign such legislation into law, but if a Democrat moves into the Governor’s mansion after the 2018 election the bill may have a different fate.  Medical, and recreational, marijuana is an exciting, complex and evolving legislation in Illinois and across the country.  With a wide variety of legal issues and significant economic impact, this issue is unlikely to be completely resolved anytime soon.

The Illinois Department of Public Heath plans to appeal Judge Mitchell’s ruling – stay tuned.[6]

 

[1] See Mednick, Ann v. Ill. Dept. of Public Heal., 2017-CH-6032; see also McCoppin, Robert. “Judge orders Illinois to expand medical marijuana qualifying conditions to include pain.” Chicago Tribune 17 Jan. 2018.

[2] Id.

[3] 410 ILCS 130/10(h)(1)

[4] Mednick, Ann v. Ill. Dept. of Public Heal., 2017-CH-6032; see also McCoppin, Robert. “Judge orders Illinois to expand medical marijuana qualifying conditions to include pain.” Chicago Tribune 17 Jan. 2018.

[5] See Driscoll, Jaclyn. “Illinois Lawmaker’s Plan to Combat Opioid Abuse with Cannabis.” NPR Illinois 20 Nov. 2017.

[6] McCoppin, Robert. “Judge orders Illinois to expand medical marijuana qualifying conditions to include pain.” Chicago Tribune 17 Jan. 2018.