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July 2016
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  • Beneficial Changes in Store for Illinois’ Medical Cannabis Program
    Thomas M. Anderson, MD
    ISMS President
    Thomas M. Anderson, MD

    In recent years, it’s been a rite of passage for ISMS presidents to become experts on medical cannabis due to the large number of media requests on this topic. I earned my stripes recently in a conversation with Missouri's The Joplin Globe. Our neighbor to the south is considering its own medical cannabis initiative, and the Globe was reaching out to see how things were working in other states.

    Of course, just as I had Illinois’ medical cannabis law mastered, our General Assembly passed Senate Bill 10 only a few days later, modifying and extending the state’s pilot program through July 1, 2020. Governor Rauner signed the bill late last week, as ISMS urged him to do

    While as a diagnostic radiologist I am not someone who would ever need to certify patients for medical cannabis, I can tell you that ISMS was very involved in the changes to the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act on behalf of Illinois physicians.

    One of our top priorities was removing the requirement that in order to certify a patient for medical cannabis, the physician must state that in his or her professional opinion the patient would be "likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from the medical use of cannabis." Under the new bill, physicians will certify that the patient is under the physician’s care and has a qualifying condition.

    This is good news for doctors. We have heard from many of you regarding the current burden of having to "recommend" medical cannabis, and we worked hard to remove it.

    Another change that ISMS initiated requires the Illinois Department of Public Health to electronically submit the names of all approved registrants for medical cannabis to the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP). This will allow physicians to see if a patient under their care is already certified for medical cannabis.

    Speaking of the PMP, when Illinois enacted a law (House Bill 1) last year to tackle its serious problem with heroin and opioid abuse, one of the provisions required automatic enrollment in the PMP when a physician renews his or her state controlled substance license. All physician licenses in Illinois will be up for renewal in 2017.

    If you maintain a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) number and want to get a head start with the PMP before next summer, register here. You may want to take ISMS’ free on-demand course, The Illinois Prescription Monitoring Program and Your Practice.

    ISMS also provides free resources for members about the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. Keep in mind these resources reflect the law prior to the passage of Senate Bill 10:

    Medical cannabis dispensaries first opened their doors for business last November 9. As of June 1, the state has approved applications for 7,000 qualifying patients (including 52 Illinois residents under the age of 18).  

    While the number of patients requesting medical cannabis in Illinois is far lower than anticipated, it appears the program will not be going away any time soon. But thanks to ISMS advocacy, it will be much less burdensome for doctors and will provide crucial data on patients' histories with medical cannabis – important information to ensure the health and safety of Illinois citizens. 

    I look forward to hearing from you. During my term, I can be reached at DrAnderson@isms.org.

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