Group backs legislation to expand medical cannabis program

As discussions at the state Capitol continue on adult use of cannabis, Illinois is moving ahead with plans to expand and make permanent the help medical cannabis has provided to thousands of people.

The Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois is supportive of House Bill 895, pending a vote in the Illinois House. The bill pushed by Rep. Bob Morgan — the former head of the state’s Medical Cannabis Pilot Program — would make the pilot program permanent and expand qualifying conditions for medical cannabis treatment.

The alliance also announces its new online resource to help people get access to the medical cannabis:

MCAI is a trade association based in Springfield formed to represent cultivation centers and dispensaries licensed under the state’s Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. The organization’s goal is to promote the medicinal benefits of cannabis, safe delivery of medical cannabis and overall growth of the industry while ensuring the public’s general welfare is promoted and protected.

Tens of thousands have been approved for medical cannabis since the program opened in September 2014. But the alliance recognizes many other Illinoisans have medical conditions that would allow them to qualify for medical cannabis treatment, but have not participated. The alliance is developing a Road to Relief comprehensive education and patient outreach program to expand awareness, interest and participation.

Central to the campaign is its website. It provides a simple, attractive portal for medical cannabis users and those wanting to better understand the state’s program.

At the homepage, users can initially fill out an online card with their basic information to find out if they qualify for medical cannabis. They will find an extensive list of ailments that may qualify them for the program, including instruction that a new state law allows physicians to switch patients from opioids to medical cannabis for pain treatment. From there, dispensaries nearest them will be suggested along with contact information, and users can ask questions or make comments before searching a companion website to find doctors and dispensaries near them.

When legislators return from spring break at the beginning of May for the final scheduled weeks of the legislative session, the alliance will be working closely with Morgan and other advocates to support legislative approval of House Bill 895.

Along with making the state’s pilot program permanent, it adds health conditions that could qualify for medical cannabis care, including autism, chronic pain, migraines, anorexia and kidney disease. Patients under 18 would be able to see more designated caregivers, and veterans would qualify for the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program.

Alliance representatives say House Bill 895, the alliance’s website and the Road to Relief program all send a strong message that medical cannabis is helping people heal, and more should experience those life-changing benefits.

“Many people benefit every day from medical cannabis pain relief that they simply cannot get through opioids and other medications. Cannabis is changing lives for the better,” said Pamela Althoff, the organization’s executive director. “Yet, too many Illinoisans don’t know if they qualify for medical cannabis help, or they hear misinformation about what our members can offer.

“We’re working to ensure Illinoisans who want to live healthier lives know their Road to Relief begins by visiting to find out everything they need to know about the program. We will work closely with Rep. Morgan and our other allies to make medical cannabis permanent and more expansive to help more people get the relief they deserve

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April 15, 2019 at 10:12AM

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