Program Updates

September 1, 2016

Memorandum

The following key changes and developments at the state and federal levels could impact Illinois’ Medical Cannabis Pilot Program.

State Updates

Changes to the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program were signed into law (Public Act 99-0519) on June 30, 2016. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) filed an emergency and a proposed rule, published August 12, 2016 in the Illinois Register (pages 10751-10753 and 10992-11041), identical in content and implementing PA99-0519.

  • The emergency rule—retroactive to August 1, 2016 and effective for 150 days—adds Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and terminal illness as new qualifying conditions for patients to participate in the pilot program.

Without the emergency rule, individuals diagnosed with PTSD or terminal illness “will not be able to apply for a Medical Cannabis Registry Identification Card to access potentially life-sustaining therapy through the use of medical cannabis products.” Immediate adoption of the emergency rule will ensure that IDPH can approve medical cannabis registration cards for these conditions. 

The rule also:

  • Makes changes in physician written certification;
  • Alters fees to correspond with the lengthened time frame for a valid registry identification card; and
  • Adds requirements for increasing the adequate supply of medical cannabis. 

IDPH plans to make new application forms (including physician certification forms) available as soon as possible. Final adoption of the rulemaking process is anticipated to take place between February and May of 2017. 

Read about changes to the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program under PA 99-0519.

Federal Updates

While the state of Illinois recognizes a legitimate medicinal use for cannabis, the federal government has explicitly rejected such recognition. In two separate letters dated July 19, 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) denied pending 2009 and 2011 petitions to initiate rulemaking proceedings to reschedule cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). 

On August 12, 2016, the agency published the letters sent to the petitioners with a detailed response outlining the factual and legal basis for the denial of the petitions. Read the DEA response to the 2009 petition and the agency’s response to the 2011 petition.

At the same time, the DEA released a policy statement in the Federal Register to increase the number of entities registered under the CSA to grow and distribute cannabis for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized research purposes in the U.S. For more detail on all recent DEA actions related to medical cannabis, see the DEA’s press release.

Implications

In response to the 2009 and 2011 petitions, the DEA requested a scientific and medical evaluation and scheduling recommendation from the Department of Health and Human Services, which was conducted by the FDA in consultation with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 

As a result of the recent DEA responses, cannabis continues to be classified under the CSA as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning:

  • It has high potential for abuse;
  • Has no currently accepted medical use in the U.S.; and
  • Lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision. 

For purposes of federal law, cannabis remains illegal, despite Illinois’s decriminalization of cannabis as an alternative treatment for serious diseases causing chronic pain.

Because cannabis possession and use is illegal under federal law, Illinois residents who use cannabis are technically at risk for federal prosecution. However, the Department of Justice has advised federal prosecutors in states that have enacted laws similar to PA 98-0122, which established the state’s pilot program, to consider whether it is an efficient use of their resources to pursue individual medicinal cannabis users.