Children will get access to medical marijuana in Illinois

By Robert McCoppin
Chicago Tribune

Children who live in Illinois will be allowed access to medical marijuana in the new year under rules announced by state officials Tuesday.

Those younger than 18 will need permission from a parent or legal guardian, must get the drug through an adult caregiver and will be required to receive approval from their own treating physician and a second doctor. Children may obtain only marijuana-infused products, such as food or liquid drops, and will not be allowed to get raw pot for smoking, under Illinois Department of Public Health rules.

A new state law that took effect this year originally authorized medical marijuana for adults only. But parents of children with severe seizure disorders spearheaded a change in the law to allow ailing minors to get the drug as well.

Some children in other states where medical marijuana is legal reportedly suffered many fewer seizures and fewer side effects after taking marijuana oil that was so low in the psychoactive ingredient THC that they did not get high. Research has also shown that marijuana can help treat pain and improve appetite, and its use in Illinois was approved for any child who has one of about three dozen qualifying medical conditions, among them cancer and muscular dystrophy.

When the change takes effect on New Year's Day, children who apply must submit photos but will not be required to submit fingerprints, as their caregivers and adult patients must do.

State regulators say that before the end of this year, they will announce which businesses will be awarded licenses to operate up to 21 growing warehouses and 60 retail shops spread throughout the state. Then the businesses will have to equip their facilities and grow the first crops, which are expected to be on the market by this spring.

Marijuana remains illegal and is classified as having no medical value under federal law. The American Medical Association and anti-drug advocates oppose its use, warning of damage to the lungs and brain. Critics and advocates of medical marijuana agree that much more research should be done to understand its effects.

The Illinois rules changes also expanded the proposed Medical Cannabis Advisory Board to include one parent or caregiver of a child patient, and at least one health care practitioner with pediatric experience. The board will consider expanding the program to cover additional medical conditions.

rmccoppin@tribpub.com

Twitter @RobertMcCoppin

SOURCE: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-medical-marijuana-kids-met-20141223-story.html