A recent decision by a Cook County Judge could force the Illinois State Department of Health to greatly expand patients’ legal access to medical cannabis. Judge Raymond Mitchell heard the case, which centered on Health Department Director Dr. Nirav Shah’s decision to bar intractable pain from the state’s list of debilitating conditions for which cannabis can be recommended. Without placement on the list, those suffering intractable pain were forced to turn to other options, including opiates, to function.
Shah’s rationale for denying intractable pain a place on the list was ‘a lack of high-quality data,’ and his decision went against the unanimous vote of the Illinois Medical Cannabis Advisory Board. Judge Mitchell found that Shah’s decision was ‘clearly erroneous,’ and cited that two medical journals had reviewed 45 clinical studies of cannabis value for treating pain. “The record shows that individuals with intractable pain would benefit from the medical use of cannabis,” he wrote.
Ann Mednick, the osteoarthritis patient who brought the case against Shah, is chafing for a change in her state. “Illinois is years behind the times,” she said, “the state needs to get it together.” Mednick has taken opioid pills to manage her pain and wants to use cannabis instead so she doesn’t have to deal with the side effects of opiates.
However, if the health department has anything to say about it, Mednick, and other intractable pain sufferers, won’t be getting their medicine just yet. A spokeswoman for the department said they would be appealing the ruling. For certain, if the decision sticks, a floodgate will open.
Intractable pain is the most frequently cited reason nationwide for the medical use of cannabis.