Open, Honest Debate at Advisory Board Hearings

Government-appointed advisers held spirited public debate on the subject of medical cannabis on Monday. The Health Dept.’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board was charged with deliberating over 14 medical conditions and then deciding whether Illinois physicians should have the right to recommend treating these conditions with medicines derived from cannabis. Ultimately the panel voted to approve 11 of the 14 conditions. Several times their vote was unanimous.

Why hold these hearings?

osteoarthritis-marijuanaSigned into law Aug. 1, 2013, Illinois’ Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act provides the world’s most comprehensive legal and regulatory framework for ensuring the purity and consistency of medicines derived from cannabis. However, the law is extremely restrictive when it comes to giving patients the right to use medicine. Before a patient can obtain the right to use medicine, an Illinois physician must certify that the patient suffers from a “debilitating medial condition.”

Two years later, the list of debilitating medical conditions is narrow and dated. Medical professionals and the general public have grown substantially more educated about cannabis since the original list was enacted.

Fortunately Illinois law is designed to expand alongside the public’s growing acceptance.

The Health Department’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board is a means of expanding the Pilot Program to catch up with society’s increasingly strong and vocal demand for medical cannabis. Under Illinois law, citizens have the right to write a petition asking the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board to consider additional debilitating medical conditions. This happens twice a year.

Why these 14 conditions?

The 14 conditions scrutinized Monday represent petitions that were filed in February, the first ever round of filings.

Some of these conditions were obvious omissions missing from the law as originally enacted, including migraines, osteoarthritis, neuropathic pain, post-operative pain, and PTSD.

Open debate grounded in facts

The Health Department and members of the Medical Advisory Board should be commended for the way in which the hearings were conducted. There was an obvious urgency and compassion among the board members.  The process was completely untainted by ideological dogma, negative social stigmas, or politics. 

Board members are physicians, patient advocates, nurses, and a pharmacist. All board members spoke openly about their practical experience and knowledge of each condition. Their justifications were grounded in study, fact, and experience.

  1. For each of the 14 conditions, there was an opportunity for petitioners and experts to provide testimony.
  2. Following testimony, board members openly and honestly discussed the condition at hand, including prospective risks and benefits of using cannabis to treat the condition.
  3. At close of discussion, board members voted by secret ballot on each condition.

11 conditions voted favorably by Advisory Board:

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Chronic Post-Operative Pain
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Migraine
  • Neuro-Behcet- Autoimmune disease
  • Neuropathy
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Superior can dehiscence syndrome

3 conditions voted negatively by Advisory Board:

  • Anxiety
  • Diabetes
  • Essential Thrombcythemia with a JAK 2 mutation

The next opportunity to write a petition occurs in July, and another round hearings will occur several weeks later.