Illinois’ New Governor Touts Recreational Cannabis, But Will He Expand Medical?

At least eight lawsuits are pending to expand medical marijuana in the state

With pro-marijuana J.B. Pritzker now in the Illinois governor’s mansion, all eyes are on his plan to legalize cannabis for recreational use. But even if approved by lawmakers, that could take more than a year to implement, and many voices are raising the call to take things slowly.

In the meantime, advocates say there’s a simple way the governor could greatly increase access to marijuana for those who want it for medical reasons.

At least eight lawsuits are pending to expand the conditions for which medical marijuana would be allowed under the state’s existing program. Chief among them is intractable pain, which the courts have already ordered to be added as a qualifying malady. But that ruling was appealed by the administration of Pritzker’s Republican predecessor, Bruce Rauner.

If Pritzker and new Attorney General Kwame Raoul drop the appeal, the court order would take effect within 30 days. The Illinois Department of Public Health, which resisted adding some new qualifying conditions during Rauner’s term in office, could also now choose on its own to expand access to medical cannabis. Neither Pritzker nor Raoul, who are both Democrats, have yet said what they’ll do with the pending lawsuits.

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