Patients Ask Governor to Approve Expanded Illness List for Medical Marijuana

As Illinois prepares to formally launch medical marijuana this fall, the chorus is rising among patients suffering from 11 ailments which are pending for the approved list.

Those conditions, ranging from anorexia nervosa, to PTSD and osteoarthritis, were recommended by a state panel May 4. But final approval rests with the Rauner administration through the Illinois Department of Public Health. And the advocacy group Cannabis Patient Advisory Coalition (CPAC), says by statute, the deadline for that approval is just 13 days away.

“What’s it going to take?” asks Chicago nurse Maureen Bake, a CPAC member. “We don’t want to wait any more. This is not fair. And we should have this choice available to us!”

Bake suffers from one condition on the approved list, fibromyalgia, and one on the pending list, osteoarthritis. She notes that patients suffering from conditions which might be treated with medical cannabis, would prefer that to what many are already doing: using illegal pot without proper medical supervision.

“How much do I use?” she asks. “What kind do I use? What’s an appropriate dose? What’s too much?”

Tom Surman agrees. Surman suffers from three conditions on the pending list: diabetic neuropathy, post-traumatic stress disorder, and migraines.

“I don’t want to have a record,” he says. “I don’t have one, and I don’t want one.”

Surman says he has used marijuana for his illnesses in the past, and knows it can be effective. But he says he quit doing so, because he did not want to live in that kind of legal jeopardy.

“I don’t want to be a lawbreaker,” he says. “I certainly don’t want to be a lawbreaker for that, and get caught!”

Surman says his experience with marijuana was that its effectiveness varied. But pot comes in different strengths and varieties. And he says he would like the opportunity to receive formal guidance on what he should be using, from a medical professional.

“I mean, I’m being prescribed stuff with codeine,” he notes. “That’s a narcotic drug, and it’s one that has much more dangerous effects than marijuana!”

Bake notes the irony that the program is about to launch in Illinois, and that medical professionals have recommended that the eleven new conditions be approved for that launch. The state will only say that those conditions are still under review.

“It’s legal in Illinois,” she said. “But it’s not legal, because we don’t have it available to us.”

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