House Bill 1, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, has been signed into law by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. After ten years of debating the issue within the state, HB 1 represents a significant step forward for Illinois cannabis policy and makes Illinois the 20th state (plus D.C.) to allow for the legitimate medicinal use of cannabis in certain situations.
“Illinois has finally recognized that cannabis can be helpful and hopefully this opens the door to broader reform. We should be allowing farmers to grow hemp in Illinois and we eventually need to end cannabis prohibition entirely,” said Illinois NORML Executive Director Dan Linn. The Illinois House passed HB1 on April 17, 2013, and the Senate followed suit exactly one month later. Governor Quinn’s signature on the bill comes a few days before the 60-day deadline laid out in the Illinois Constitution was set to expire.
Illinois NORML (National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws) supports HB1 because cannabis has been proven to have medical value, and this legislation protects patients’ and their doctors’ rights to choose the best course of treatment for each individual case. Illinois’ medical cannabis program will help thousands of seriously ill people relieve their debilitating symptoms with cannabis and will provide patients safe access to their medicine, without fear of arrest or incarceration.
“Many people much sicker than myself are depending on this,” Jim Champion, a patient with MS, explains, “It’s an exclusive club, but one you don’t want to be in.”
The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act is one of the country’s stricter medical cannabis laws. It creates a limited exception to Illinois criminal law, permitting doctor-advised medical use of cannabis by patients with one or more of over 35 serious medical conditions.
Unlike other states’ laws, “general pain” is not a qualifying patient condition under HB 1, and patients and caregivers are prohibited from cultivating cannabis. Instead, medical cannabis will be dispensed to patients from one of up to 22 cultivation centers and 60 dispensing organizations throughout the state to be tightly regulated by the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
The health department will issue medical cannabis ID cards to patients who will be allowed to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis every two weeks, including cannabis used in edibles, tinctures, and topicals. Medical cannabis will be taxed at 1%, the same rate as pharmaceutical and over-the-counter medicines.
“I am very relieved to finally have access to a treatment that works for me and is supported by my doctor,” said Julie Falco, another Illinois patient with MS. “Although, it is bittersweet knowing that there are many others that still won’t have that access until there is inclusion of all illnesses into this law. There is much more work to be done, though this a grand first step.”
The legislation includes commonplace restrictions including prohibitions on public use of cannabis and driving under the influence. Minors, public safety officials, school bus and commercial drivers, police and correctional officers, firefighters, and anyone convicted of a drug related felony are prohibited from qualifying as patients. The legislation does not prohibit employers from maintaining zero-tolerance, drug-free workplace policies.
“This is an important first step in changing the way the citizens of Illinois view and regulate cannabis. Despite its many flaws, the new law will provide access to this medicine and protection from criminal prosecution to the patients with serious medical conditions that use it,” says Ali Nagib, Assistant Director of Illinois NORML.