Medical marijuana board rips Rauner's rejections

Chicago Tribune

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner came under fire Monday as the doctors, nurses and patients on a state panel that recommends whether to expand Illinois' medical marijuana test program complained their suggestions are routinely ignored.

The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board suggested that 10 previously recommended ailments receive approval, as well two new ones: Type 1 diabetes and panic disorder.

As some at a hearing celebrated the diabetes recommendation, board member and pediatrician Dr. Nestor Ramirez cautioned the crowd to "wait for what the governor says."

"We don't get everything that we want on this board anyway, several times over," said board chair Dr. Leslie Mendoza Temple.

Rauner's Illinois Department of Public Health has rejected the board's past recommendations. The governor, who inherited the medical marijuana program, has been reluctant to broaden access, instead calling for further study of the drug's benefits and risks.

But supporters said public access to marijuana should be a matter of compassion, not science, arguing that people were suffering and shouldn't have to wait for continued research.

Farah Zala Morales, who works at a medical marijuana dispensary, spoke on behalf of her 12-year-old daughter, Mira, who has Type 1 diabetes. Morales said the drug helped ease her daughter's discomfort and stabilize her blood sugar so she didn't have to inject herself with insulin as often and could maintain good grades and play sports.

"She feels pain, burning sensations all over at the injection sites," Morales said. "She still manages to keep it all together and be an amazing person (even with) all this discomfort that she feels on a daily basis."

Panic disorders drew more support from the board. "Having the option (of medical marijuana), instead of just putting someone on four-times-a-day Xanax, would be very useful," said Dr. Eric Christoff, an HIV specialist at Northwestern Medicine.

The board rejected using medical marijuana for persistent depressive disorder, Lyme disease and MRSA, a drug-resistant staph infection.

Ten conditions Rauner's public health agency rejected again were autism, chronic pain syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, neuropathy, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain due to trauma, chronic post-op pain, intractable pain, migraines and osteoarthritis.

cbott@tribpub.com

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