Leslie Kahn writes
I really hate being “Debbie Downer” here, but this latest news on the fate of our Illinois Medical Marijuana Pilot Program (MCPP) seems to be the final “nail in the coffin.” This just in from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the agency that oversees the program. No more new qualifying conditions will be added [to the initial list of 39 for the foreseeable future.] We are more than 2 years into the 4 year pilot program. Sadly, I see the sun setting on it when it expires on January 1, 2018 and not coming back up again.
This was such a happy day for Sandy and Jim Champion who spent years getting this bill passed. Listen to Rep. Lou Lang, our hero and then Governor Quinn.
Why would I say this? Welp, it has been a fiasco from its inception in January, 2014, when it was signed into law by then Governor Quinn. It was and still is one of the most stringent and highly regulated programs in the country. It took years of effort on the part of many to even get it passed. Quinn dragged his feet for almost 2 years in getting the program up and running after it became law, with the usual “Illinois corruption” that we sadly expect in this state. There was some “funny business” as to who was awarded the coveted dispensary and cultivation centers licenses and a huge amount of liquid assets was needed to even be in the running for them. Then Quinn was out and Rauner was in and it looked like the whole program would stall.
But, it did schlep forward, slowly, and on November 9, 2015, 8 licensed dispensaries opened their doors and the first medical cannabis sales became a reality. The reason I remember that date is that it is the birthday of both my son and my sister. 3,400 Illinois patients had managed to jump through all the hoops that the IDPH set out for them to get a card and thereby gain access to a dispensary. Many more people had started applications, but between the resistance by doctors in this state to recommend medical cannabis use, the cost of getting fingerprinted and all the fees involved, as of this writing there are still only 5,000 registered patients. Everyone agrees that at least 40,000 patients are needed to make it viable to continue.
We are one of the few medical cannabis programs where neither PTSD, osteoarthritis nor chronic pain are qualifying conditions. This would open up the program to millions more Illinois citizens. Last September, Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the IDPH, who was hand picked by Governor Rauner, who BTW, has strong ties to big Pharma, turned down 11 proposed qualifying conditions. This was very disheartening for many Illinoisans who were hoping to get safe access to high quality medical cannabis. But, we didn’t lose hope because the program wasn’t up and running, yet.
But, then sales started, people bought cannabis and many were able to wean themselves off of the horrible pharmaceutical drugs which they had no trouble getting from Illinois doctors. And guess what? There were no robberies at dispensaries, crime has not increased, people are not walking down the street “stoned out of their minds” nor have small children been approached by medical cannabis patients, trying to sell them drugs. In fact, by all accounts, the program has been a huge success.
Then, at the end of January, 2016, the program was dealt yet another blow when another 8 proposed qualifying conditions were turned down. This was after people from all over the state converged on Springfield at the Capitol Building on the day of the State of the State Address. An attempt was made to deliver petitions containing 25,000 signatures, urging that these conditions be approved. Those attempting to deliver the boxes of signatures were told to bring them to the basement. We can guess what happened to them. And the same lame excuse was given by the Rauner administration as a reason for the denial of more conditions…there wasn’t enough data and evidence to show that the program was effective…blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada.
Apparently, I am not the only person who thinks this is the case. Just this morning, an article about just this subject popped up on my FB Newsfeed via the Illinois Medical Cannabis Community; The Intentional Failure of the Illinois Medical Marijuana Program. Click on the link to read all about it.
So, what is the real story, Governor Rauner? Is it your ties to big Pharma and so a conflict of interest? Did you tell people that your company raised the price of a life-saving drug for babies by 1300% before you ran for governor? Do you really think there isn’t enough evidence to show that the program is a good thing for our state? Many people have told you that they are able to wean themselves off of horrible pharmaceutical drugs and use only cannabis. I could introduce you to several people who are now using cannabis and have never felt better. What about the positive economic effects that the program is bringing? It has spawned a new industry in parts of Illinois where there was nothing.