In Cook County, Illinois last week, Judge Neil Cohen ruled that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) must be added to the state’s list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. In his ruling, he referenced an unconstitutional, private investigation that Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shav used to keep PTSD off of the state’s list of qualifying conditions. That investigation’s results were not based on recommendations of the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board.
In other words, the state’s judiciary branch has spoken, and the inferred message to the executive branch is not just to put PTSD on the list of qualifying conditions but to add other conditions that could benefit from medical marijuana regardless of personal agendas. Considering that other pending lawsuits could add seven more conditions to the list according to the Chicago Tribune, this ruling could have a significant effect on the future of the state’s medical marijuana program.
Keep in mind, the governor’s office has already said it will expand the medical marijuana program, which is a reversal from the office’s previous position. Expansion would extend the program through July 2020 and increase the number of qualifying conditions to 40 (adding conditions like cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis) from the current list of 35.
The State of Qualifying Medical Marijuana Conditions in Illinois
I’ve written about the slow growth of the medical marijuana industry in Illinois before on the Cannabiz Media blog. Illinois launched its medical marijuana program in November 2015 with 35 qualifying conditions, which is significantly more than any other state. The problem in Illinois isn’t the number of conditions covered, it’s which conditions are covered.
Cannabiz Media is in the process of writing a state-by-state report that analyzes the entire marijuana industry across the country. Conditions were analyzed thoroughly and it was found that 59.6% of all medical marijuana patients in the United States receive their certifications to treat chronic, severe, or intractable pain. That one condition accounts for nearly two out of three patient certifications.
Another 19.4% of medical marijuana patients in the U.S. are certified for muscle spasticity and 13.4% are certified for spinal cord injury or disease. The fourth highest number of patients are certified for PTSD (12.5%). Judge Cohen gave the state of Illinois 30 days to add PTSD to its list of qualifying conditions, but until then, none of the top four conditions are covered in Illinois. After PTSD is added, the state will still be missing the top three conditions from its list.
When you see the numbers, it’s not surprising that some marijuana businesses are reluctant to expand into Illinois. If the top conditions aren’t covered, the number of registered patients is likely to be limited. Some states are reluctant to add chronic pain to their lists of qualifying conditions because there is a belief that this “catch-all” condition will cause the state governments to lose control as the program grows rapidly. But keep in mind, 22 states already cover chronic pain while 21 cover muscle spasticity, 10 cover PTSD, and 5 cover spinal cord injury and disease.
The pressure is on for states that don’t cover chronic pain to add it to their lists of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana. And if they don’t add it, a judge just might order them to do so like Judge Cohen did in Illinois.