Rauner may decide this week whether to expand medical marijuana program

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Within the next ten days, possibly even this week, Governor Bruce Rauner is expected to decide whether to expand the list of medical conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed.

“I have no idea why he would object to this,” said PTSD patient Lonnie Hodge.

Hodge can't understand why Governor Rauner would refuse to approve the use of medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorders. He’s a Vietnam Vet whose PTSD has disrupted his life for years.

“I would have up to five panic attacks a day that would last 40 to 45 minutes each, wasn't able to leave my house, not able to sleep at night,” Hodge said.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is one of eight medical conditions that could soon be added to 39 others for which medical marijuana is available in Illinois. One dispensary pharmacist says expanding the number of eligible conditions would help the fledging medical marijuana program survive.

“If it remains at this level, with 4000 patients in Illinois, it’s not sustainable to support this industry, for everybody, not only myself,” said Joseph Friedman of PDI Medical.

“I still feel my left arm as if it's attached, except it's encased in a block of ice and being squeezed all the time,” said Michael Fine, who is the co-chair on the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board.

Fine lost his left arm in an auto accident and says medical marijuana helps him cope. Governor Rauner appointed him to the board, which recommended the eight new conditions.

“It's absolutely crucial that new patients come in to really bolster the longevity for the program,” Fine said.

The governor in a statement Wednesday told FOX 32 that more time is needed to evaluate the program, but he offered no opinion on the eight pending medical conditions. Program advocates say he ought to remember that the program has economic benefits, too.

“I think that the industry can definitely create a lot of jobs, a lot of tax revenue. Part of the issue with getting there is expanding the program,” said Ross Morreale of the Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois.

It took almost two years for the state's four-year pilot program to actually get underway, so the entire program will be up for review by the general assembly two years from now, in 2018.

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