CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois health officials posted emergency rules Tuesday spelling out how the state's medical marijuana program will be extended to children.
Patients younger than 18 with certain health conditions, including seizures from epilepsy, will be able to use non-smokable forms of marijuana under a new law taking effect Jan. 1. Children will need to obtain signatures from two doctors who certify they believe the patient will benefit, according to regulations posted online by the state Department of Public Health. Adult patients need just one doctor to sign off.
Requiring parents to take their children to two doctors to get signed forms is "an unneeded burden standing between these patients and the medicine they need," said Dan Linn, executive director of Illinois NORML, a group advocating changes in marijuana laws. Doctors have been reluctant to give their signatures for adults who want to use medical marijuana, Linn said.
One Illinois father who advocated for the new law said requiring two doctors' signatures is prudent.
"There does need to be a different standard for kids," said Randy Gross of Naperville, whose 8-year-old son Chase suffers from intractable epilepsy and has used marijuana oil in Colorado. "I'm glad they're protecting kids."
The annual fee for a patient younger than 18 to obtain medical marijuana care will be $100 and will include a caregiver's fee. That's slightly less than the fees for an adult patient who needs a caregiver to purchase medical marijuana. Adult patients pay both a $100 patient fee and a $25 caregiver fee.
The rules expand a medical marijuana advisory board to include a parent or caregiver of a patient younger than 18 and a medical professional with experience in pediatrics. Gov. Pat Quinn hasn't appointed the advisory board and it's unclear when board members will be named.
Including a parent on the board will keep the system responsive to the needs of children, said Margaret Storey, an Evanston mother of an 11-year-old daughter with intractable epilepsy. Storey testified before Senate and House committees in favor of the bill.
The emergency rules are in effect for 150 days. A draft of permanent rules will be published later, which will trigger a 45-day public comment period.
Illinois expects to grant up to 21 permits for cultivation centers and up to 60 permits for dispensaries before the end of the year. The first legal marijuana would be available to registered patients sometime in 2015.
The whole program is set to expire in 2018, unless the Legislature extends what is now a pilot program.