5 Things To Know About The Expanded Medical Marijuana Law

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Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed into law a measure that stands to create a new class of medical marijuana users. Here’s a look at what the change will mean:

1. More access …

The new law allows medical marijuana to be used as a replacement for opioid pain medication. That means anyone whose doctor would write them a prescription for pain pills like OxyContin or Vicodin could be certified for medical marijuana. Eventually, patients will be able to take their doctor certifications directly to a dispensary, complete their registration there and begin purchasing cannabis, and state health officials will review the registration later to make sure it meets the requirements of the law. But state officials say dispensary computer systems need to be upgraded before that will be possible.

2. … and easier access.

For other medical cannabis patients — those who have one of about 40 qualifying serious and often chronic conditions — the application process will no longer include background checks and fingerprinting. And patients will be able to get provisional approval to buy marijuana while their applications are being processed.

3. How much and how long.

Those who qualify for medical pot for opioid replacement will be able to purchase cannabis at a licensed dispensary for 90 days, but that can be renewed with a physician’s approval. For other patients, certification lasts for three years, a time frame that was earlier lengthened from one year. Qualifying patients can buy up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks. The medical marijuana law — including the new opioid-replacement measure — is still in a pilot phase until July 1, 2020, so it would need to be extended or made permanent in order to continue beyond that date.

4. What about intractable pain?

The governor and the state health chief may have endorsed marijuana as a painkiller substitute, but the state is still fighting in court over adding so-called intractable pain — or pain that’s resistant to other treatment — as its own qualifying condition. In January, a Cook County judge ordered intractable pain to be added to the list, but the state chose to appeal the ruling.

5. Is legalization next?

Despite Rauner’s endorsement of the new law, he has resisted other proposed expansions of medical cannabis and has said he’s not in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. But his Democratic November opponent, J.B. Pritzker, has endorsed full legalization, and backers of such a bill plan to push for its passage after the election.

Source: 420 INTEL

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