Illinois’ medical marijuana program will continue to grow thanks to a mandate from a judge to include intractable pain, which is pain that doesn’t not respond to traditional treatment methods, as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. While the Illinois Department of Public Health has excluded intractable pain from being qualifying condition to obtain medical marijuana, Cook County Circuit Judge Raymond Mitchell overturned the decision last week during a court session.

“The record shows that individuals with intractable pain would benefit from the medical use of cannabis,” Mitchell stated in his final ruling. The judge cited two medical journals that together reviewed over forty clinical studies of medicinal marijuana in the treatment of chronic pain. Mitchell added that the comprehensive studies concluded that adverse effects, if any, were not serious and tolerated well by patients.

Ann Mednick, the woman whose lawsuit generated Mitchell’s ruling, described how she is prescribed opioid painkillers as treatment for the extreme pain related to her osteoarthritis but seeking a treatment option that poses fewer side effects. Mednick had pleaded the state last year to include intractable pain as a qualifying condition but was rejected by Illinois Department of Public Health.

“Illinois is years behind the times,” said Mednick. “The state needs to get [it] together.”

Then, Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the health department, referred to the pure “lack of high-quality data” from clinical trials. Shah’s statement is in clear disagreement with Judge Mitchell’s final ruling. Apparently, since the commencement of the state’s medical marijuana program in 2015, Shah has been unwilling to add to the list of qualifying conditions.

The judge noted in his decision that Shah’s initial ruling was “clearly erroneous”. The ruling also cited that Shah mentioned that intractable pain was not listed in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), yet it is listed clear as day as form of chronic pain.

Although the judge has ordered Shah to add intractable pain to the list of conditions, it’s not clear as to when the new measure will be executed. A spokesperson for the department did say that the agency will try to appeal the ruling.


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