Illinois Judge Orders Health Department To Allow MMJ For Post-Operative Chronic Pain

By Victoria Kim 09/27/16

If the health department complies, Illinois will join states like Minnesota and Vermont which already allow MMJ for chronic pain.

Illinois Judge Orders Health Department To Allow MMJ For Post-Operative Chronic Pain

Last week, an Illinois county judge ordered the state’s Department of Public Health to allow chronic pain sufferers legal access to medical cannabis. 

Cook County Judge Neil Cohen gave the DPH 30 days to add post-operative chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions under the state’s medical cannabis program.

Cohen did the same thing for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in June, when he criticized DPH Director Dr. Nirav Shah for failing to heed the advice of the Illinois Medical Cannabis Advisory Board. Earlier this year, the board recommended allowing both PTSD and chronic pain to be included in the medical cannabis program. PTSD was eventually added to the program.

“The Director’s legal duty was to review the evidence, review the advisory board’s recommendations based thereon and render a final decision accepting or denying the proposal,” wrote the judge in his June ruling. “Instead, Director Shah engaged in a private investigation, hidden from public view and more importantly, hidden from the parties, and arrived at his conclusion based thereon. This process was constitutionally inappropriate.”

Illinois Public Radio reported that Cohen’s recent rulings were in response to a series of lawsuits seeking to expand the state medical cannabis program’s list of qualifying conditions. Other pending lawsuits include adding autism and osteoarthritis to the list.

A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 3 to “ensure the Director’s compliance with this order,” according to NBC News.

If DPH complies with the judge’s ruling, Illinois will join other medical cannabis states that already allow medical cannabis for chronic pain, like Minnesota and Vermont. (However, Cohen’s ruling refers specifically to post-operative chronic pain.)

Post-operative chronic pain refers to pain that persists after the normal period of healing after surgery. According to Verywell, this type of pain is fairly common. It estimates that between 10% and 50% of those who undergo surgery experience post-operative chronic pain.

This type of pain is believed to be caused by peripheral nerve damage during surgery, inflammation at the site of the incision, or damage to bodily tissues during the surgery.

Given the recent research on the relationship between chronic pain and medical cannabis, it seems the once demonized “drug” is becoming a more viable alternative to opioid painkillers that have been fueling the rising number of overdose deaths across the U.S. and Canada.

A study published in July suggested that patients who have access to medical cannabis are using it in lieu of painkillers. An analysis of prescriptions filled by Medicare Part D (which covers the cost of prescription drugs) from 2010 to 2013 found there was a notable decrease in prescriptions for traditional meds for conditions that could also be treated with cannabis such as anxiety, depression, glaucoma, seizures, and pain.

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