Many doctors have questions about the Illinois Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act (CUMCA) and medical marijuana in general. I have attempted to clear up some of the confusion around the law. This post is not legal advice, but rather a general outline of subject of the act and medical cannabis in general. You should contact an attorney if you have questions about the law and how it applies to your practice. If you have more questions that you want answered, feel free to email me at email@example.com.
What is a physicians role under the CUMCA?
Under the Act, physicians will provide written certifications to the Illinois Department of Public Health that their patient is likely to receive “therapeutic or palliative benefit from the medical use of cannabis to treat or alleviate the patient’s debilitating medical condition”.
Doctors don’t provide ‘perscriptions’ for medical cannabis but instead they will ‘recommend’ medical cannabis on a form provided by the Department of Public Health. The Department of Public Health has not yet created a form for this “recommendation” but they will do so in the future.
Who can recommend medical cannabis under CUMCA?
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health:
“A physician may be a doctor of medicine or osteopathy licensed under the Medical Practice Act of 1987 to practice medicine and must have a current controlled substances license under Article II of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act. No other licensed profession (including dentists) may recommend a qualifying patient for medical cannabis use.”
What is considered a “Debilitating Medical Condition” that would qualify a patient to use medical cannabis under CUMCA?
The listed conditions under the act are: cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, cachexia/wasting syndrome, muscular dystrophy, severe fibromyalgia, spinal cord disease (including but not limited to arachnoiditis), Tarlov cysts, hydromyelia syringomyelia, Rheumatoid arthritis, fibrous dysplasia, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and post concussion syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, Arnold-Chiari malformation and Syringomelia, Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA), Parkinson’s Disease, Tourette Syndrome, Myoclonus, Dystonia, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, RSD (Complex Regional Pain Syndromes Type I), Causalgia, CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type II), Neurofibromatosis, Chronic inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Lupus, Interstitial Cystitis, Myasthenia Gravis, Hydrocephalus, nail-patella syndrome or residual limb pain; or the treatment of these conditions.
As of now these are the ONLY conditions that qualify as a “debilitating medical conditon” under the law. You may not provide a written certification for any other condition unless the Department of Public Health amends the law.
How long must I see a patient with a debilitating medical condition before I can provide a written certification?
The law seems unclear on this question. The law requires a physical examination, assessment of the patient’s medical history, and a review of the patient’s medical records. The examination should be in the on-going course of a bona-fide doctor patient relationship.
The Department of Public Health will review any written certification to determine the nature of the certifying doctor and the patient. If there does not appear that a relationship exists the Department may not issue a medical cannabis ID card.
Cannabis is still illegal under federal law. Can I get in trouble for recommending cannabis to patients?
This is a tough question. Historically the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has been somewhat aggressive with doctors who recommend medical cannabis. However, recent statements by the Department of Justice have stated that Medical Cannabis is not a priority for federal law enforcement.
At least one federal court has upheld the right of physicians to recommend medical cannabis to patients. In that particular case the DEA attempted to revoke the DEA registration of several physicians who recommended medical cannabis in California. The Ninth Circuit prevented the DEA from revoking these doctors registration.
You should consult with an attorney if you have questions about how recommending medical cannabis would affect your medical practice.
What if my patient lies to me in order to get a written certification?
Patients that provide false medical information in an attempt to obtain a written certification from a physician are subject to a fine of up to $1000.
Where can I learn more?
Americans for Safe Access published a great legal guide for doctors and patients.
Procon.org has a great list of 105 peer reviewed studies on medical cannabis.