Illinois Governor Secretly Disbanded State's Medical Marijuana Advisory Board

When the state of Illinois passed medical marijuana in 2013, the legislation created an advisory board that would evaluate and recommend new conditions for treatment under the new law. But three years into its existence, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner secretly shut down the advisory board and pretended it still existed as recently as last month.

Chicago Magazine published an article exposing the situation recently. According to their sources, the members of the Illinois Medical Marijuana Advisory Board were told in the spring of 2016 that their positions would be eliminated. Rauner made a deal state legislators that he would extend the state's medical marijuana bill for an additional three years and including two new conditions to the program as long as the board was eliminated. However, the governor's office never made that deal public and the state still listed the board as existing as late as last month, even though they hadn't met since May 2016.

The former members of the board didn't make the situation public because they believed keeping the medical marijuana program in Illinois alive was more important than creating a stink about the board.

It's weird that Rauner eliminated the board considering they were largely powerless. The board's job was to receive petitions from the public for new conditions to add to the qualifying list of the state's medical marijuana program. They would then evaluate those petitions and determine which deserved recommendations to be added. However, the board had no actual power beyond making recommendations. Their analysis would be sent to Illinois Public Health director Nirav Shah, who would then decide whether or not to approve the recommendations.

In the two years the Illinois Medical Marijuana Advisory Board existed, Shah approved none of their recommendations for conditions to add to the qualifying list. That includes many times where the Board unanimously voted in favor of adding to the list.

The reason Rauner eliminated the board could be due to publicity. The Medical Marijuana Advisory Board held public hearings where people could testify either for or against adding conditions to the list. Likewise, the media reported on the board's hearings and Shah's veto of their recommendations.

Now applications for new conditions are sent to the director in charge of the state's medical marijuana pilot program. There are no more public hearings and everything is done behind backdoors, removing transparency from the state's cannabis program.

Rauner's already considered a highly vulnerable governor when he comes up for re-election next November. Trying to secretly dismantle popular state programs is probably not a great way to drum up votes.


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