by Alex Enyart
“Illinois Unveils Groundbreaking Medical Cannabis Program Updates”
The Illinois Medical Cannabis Program is seeing rapid expansion under Senate Bill 336, the “Alternatives to Opioids” Program which recently became law and went into effect January 31st, 2019. The new law allows for patients, prescribed an opiate, to be able to access medical cannabis in place of opioids such as hydrocodone or codeine.
Existing Illinois Medical Cannabis Program Patients had to have a doctor certify that they have a particular listing, such as cancer, PTSD, or Crohn’s Disease. Under the Rauner Administration, this process resulted in a back log of delays and lost applications. Previously, medical cannabis card applications took 90 days to process, with millions of dollars of revenue sitting unclaimed in the form of checks for processing fees.
Under the new regulations, patients can independently register in the Illinois Cannabis Tracking System (ICTS). They can then see a healthcare provider to determine if they would qualify for an opioid prescription and the physician then files a certification in ICTS, which is good for up to 90 days.
Locally, the Madison County Health Department is offering assistance to sign up for ICTS. Registration requires a valid e-mail address, an Illinois Driver’s License or State ID card, proof of address, passport photo, and a credit or debit card fee of $10. The program is for adults 21 and over who do not possess Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL) or School Bus Driver’s Permits.
When asked how the new regulations will impact the existing medical program, local dispensary manager, Andrew Cordes, at The Green Solution in Sauget, stated “We are working hard to make sure we can keep giving the same great experience to current patients and Alternative to Opioid Participants alike. Patrons can expect to see the store increase hours of operation and more employees in the dispensaries.” Cordes does not believe the new regulations will lead to an increase in prices, stating “Cultivators in Illinois have been preparing for the expected increase associated with this program. They are confident that their efforts to expand their facilities and increase production will allow them to meet increase demand from Alternative to Opioid Participants.”
The Alternative to Opioids Program is a new approach to issuing medical cannabis cards. Previously, states base the criteria for obtaining a medical cannabis card individually with significant variation between states. Some states, like California, issue cannabis cards for symptoms or diagnoses, such as chronic pain and cancer, while other states, such as Illinois before the program, only issued medical cannabis cards for certain conditions and diseases such as epilepsy and HIV/AIDS. Illinois Patients who have one of the 40+ qualifying conditions can still enter into the Medical Cannabis Program. However, they must have an Illinois licensed physician certify that they have one of the qualifying conditions, and have the physician submit this form. The patient must separately submit a proof of identity, residency, passport photos, background check, and a color copy of one’s drivers license or state ID card. An application and instructions can be found at: http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/prevention-wellness/medical-cannabis/medical-cannabis-registry-application
Alex Enyart is a Partner at Eckert Enyart Attorneys at Law in Belleville IL.