Medical Marijuana in Illinois – Compassionate Care Act
Medical marijuana is a huge debate in society. Some say it will help people with chronic pain, others say it will be abused. Some say it will make marijuana safer, other say it will lead to more drug addiction issues.
Here are some major points which cause concern regarding the Compassionate Care Act which is being pilot-tested in Illinois for 5-years.
-The bill allows prescribed users to obtain excessive amounts of marijuana. Any patient with a prescription will be able to obtain 2.5 ounces of marijuana every 14 days. This is equivalent to 183 marijuana joints every two weeks, or 13 joints per day. Even addicted users don’t smoke that much.
-While originally proposed as compassionate care for terminal patients, the bill allows prescriptions to be written for a wide range of conditions including:
- Crohn’s Diesease & IBS (diarrhea)
- Causalga (pain)
- Myoclonus (muscle twitching)
- Tourette’s Syndrome
- Cachexia (Anorexia)
- Dystonia (writer’s cramp)
- Post-Concussive Syndrome (headaches)
- Nail-Patella Syndrome (nail abnormalities)
-The bill will allow patients to drive under the influence of marijuana, unless they are deemed impaired.
Impairment is difficult to determine. There are no immediate testing mechanisms for marijuana (such as the breathalyzer for alcohol). Marijuana affects reaction times and motor skills and is the identified drug in 14% of fatal car crashes (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2010)
-The bill poses serious risk & long term harm to Illinois youth. Adolescents equate “medical” with harmless or “safe”. Medical marijuana laws normalize marijuana use, and that gives adolescents the green light to use. Marijuana has a direct impact on short-term memory, attention span, depth perception, learning and judgment. Marijuana alters brain development when taken during adolescence (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2011). 18 year olds can get a prescription for medical marijuana without parental consent.
-Unlike other drugs, which are carefully controlled and regulated, marijuana does not go through the FDA’s testing procedures because you can’t get a plant through this process.
Illinois has become the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana, and has done so with some of the most, strict standards in the nation. Illinois has launched a 4 year pilot program, after which time another vote will be required to make the law permanent in Illinois.
Q: Since medical marijuana is now legal in Illinois, can I just buy marijuana off the street?
A: No. It is still illegal to by marijuana from an unauthorized source. Medical marijuana is only legal when purchased from an authorized dispensary and with a medical prescription.
Q: When will medical marijuana be available to purchase in Illinois?
A: When marijuana will be available is uncertain, but it will most likely take months or even a year for legal supplies to get established. Prior to this happening, three state agencies, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, must draft rules which govern patients, growers, and dispensaries. Once these rules are approved by the legislation, permits for the cultivation centers (up to 22 in number) need to be established.
Q: Who will be able to obtain marijuana?
A: Only seriously ill patients who have a longstanding relationship with a doctor will be able to apply for a state ID card. The new law specifically lists dozens of qualifying illnesses and diseases including lupus, HIV, hepatitis C, and multiple sclerosis. Patients will be limited to 2.5 ounces every two weeks. No one under 18 years of age will be eligible.
Q: Can people be arrested for having medical marijuana?
A: Patients who are registered with the state can’t be arrested or charged for using medical marijuana, if they’re using it in compliance with the law. However, employers can still maintain drug policies in the workplace, meaning someone using medical marijuana could face consequences for failing a drug test.
Q: What makes the Illinois law so tough?
A: The state will require background checks for patients, caregivers and all staff members at dispensaries and growing centers. Cultivation centers will be under 24-hour video surveillance. Illinois won’t allow it to be grown at home, and there’s no reciprocity with other states that allow medical marijuana.
Q: Were there efforts to fight this bill?
A: Yes. Some anti-crime groups have expressed concerns that medical marijuana could lead to an increase in nonmedical use, particularly among teens. The non-governmental Chicago Crime Commission, which examines crime trends, says marijuana could end up in the wrong hands. Police also have opposed this law, saying it complicates field sobriety testing.
Q: Will this create new jobs and businesses?
A: State and industry officials say, yes. The Governor’s office estimates hundreds of new jobs, with staff members at each growing center and dispensary.
Q: Will Illinois legalize marijuana for recreational use?
A: Not any time soon. The focus right now is medical and “Patient-centered”. Illinois’ new law for medical marijuana is a 4-year pilot program. Lawmakers will have to vote on it again to make it permanent. Advocates have focused on the bill’s strict guidelines for very sick people.