Pubdate: Wed, 29 Jun 2016
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2016 Sun-Times Media, LLC
Author: Carla K. Johnson, AP Medical Writer


Illinois must add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of 
diseases eligible for medical marijuana treatment, a Cook County 
judge ordered Tuesday in a sternly worded ruling that also said the 
state's public health director engaged in a "private investigation" 
that was "constitutionally inappropriate."

In a lawsuit filed by an Iraq war veteran, Judge Neil Cohen ordered 
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah to add PTSD 
within 30 days. It's the first decision among eight lawsuits filed by 
patients disappointed with across-the-board rejections by Gov. Bruce 
Rauner's administration of recommendations from an advisory board on 
medical marijuana.

The health department is reviewing the judge's order, department 
spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said.

Illinois law allows people to petition the state to add health 
conditions to the eligible list, but Rauner's administration has 
rejected all new conditions despite the advice of an expert panel 
that reviewed available medical evidence.

In the case of PTSD, the advisory board voted unanimously to add it, 
but Shah, a Rauner appointee, conducted his own investigation and 
rejected PTSD applying a standard of medical evidence that "appears 
nowhere in the Act or the Department's rules," the judge wrote. Shah 
not only deprived the plaintiff of his right to due process but also 
"was contrary to the plain language of the Department's rules," Cohen wrote.

Veteran Daniel Paul Jabs, who filed the lawsuit, "feels this decision 
gives him and other military veterans suffering from PTSD the respect 
they deserve from the state and the governor's office," attorney 
Michael Goldberg said Tuesday.

The ruling may help veterans with PTSD feel more comfortable trying 
marijuana to ease their symptoms and reduce their reliance on 
prescription drugs, said Michael Krawitz of Veterans for Medical 
Cannabis Access, a national nonprofit based in Virginia.

Seven other plaintiffs have filed similar lawsuits seeking to add the 
following conditions to the Illinois program: chronic post-operative 
pain, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, polycystic kidney disease, 
osteoarthritis, intractable pain and autism. Cohen is the judge in 
the chronic pain and osteoarthritis cases, while the others are 
before other judges.

Fifteen states and Washington, D. C., have medical marijuana laws 
that either specifically include PTSD or give doctors broad enough 
discretion to recommend marijuana for the condition, according to the 
Marijuana Policy Project, which seeks to end criminalization of the 
drug. This month, Ohio became the 25th state to legalize a 
comprehensive medical marijuana program, and it lists PTSD as a 
qualifying condition.

Illinois' medical marijuana pilot program got its start under former 
Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, and continued under Rauner, a Republican 
who for more than a year resisted expanding the program beyond the 
original 39 conditions and diseases listed in the law.

Rauner is considering signing a bill to extend the pilot program by 2 
1/2 years and adding PTSD and terminal illness to the list of conditions.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom