Today, Wednesday May 21, 2014 the Illinois House voted to pass Senate Bill 2636 98-18, sending the bill back to the Senate for concurrence where it passed in a substantially similar form last month. This bill as amended by the House would add seizure conditions including epilepsy to the list of qualifying conditions under the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program and would allow children under 18 with those conditions to have access to the program.
“This is very hopeful day for Illinois kids with epilepsy and their families. We are grateful for the legislators who chose to take action and improve our children’s quality of life.” said Nicole Gross whose son Chase suffers from one of the seizure conditions covered by the bill, although he is currently living in Colorado in order to legally obtain medical cannabis. Gross testified before the Senate Public Health Committee last month in support of the bill.
Currently the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, which was signed into law by Governor Quinn in August 2013 and which went into effect on Jan 1, does not allow anyone under the age of 18 to be a qualified patient to access medical cannabis. SB2636 would begin to open this program up to a wider range of patients and reflects the growing public consensus that cannabis is a valid medicine and should be treated as such. Minors would be restricted to consuming only medical cannabis infused products and the medicine would have to be obtained by a parent or guardian. The bill also provides authority to the Illinois Department of Public Health to add other qualifying conditions for minors to use medical cannabis.
Illinois NORML Assistant Director Ali Nagib said, “Children with seizure conditions in Illinois deserve access to this important, possibly life-saving medicine and we’re counting on Governor Quinn to sign this bill to give those kids a chance for a better quality of life.”
The draft rules for the new program are currently under review and will hopefully be finalized over the next few months. Patients will likely have to wait to get access to medical cannabis until sometime in the first half of 2015.
“Seizure conditions are serious and can have a devastating impact on a person’s life. They affect millions across the nation and thousands of adults and children in Illinois. These patients deserve access to any form of treatment that can help them, and medical cannabis has transformed lives and shown genuine promise for countless individuals and families in the states that allow access,” added Chris Lindsay, a Legislative Analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project
Illinois NORML would like to give our sincere thanks to Senator Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) and Representative Lou Lang (D-Skokie) for their sponsorship of the bill and to all the other supporters for helping to get this bill passed, including the Epilepsy Foundation, the Marijuana Policy Project and especially the parents who spoke so eloquently at the committee hearing on this matter.