Legalization of medical marijuana and DePaul’s pot policy

A bill legalizing the use of medical marijuana in Illinois is one step closer to becoming a reality, and as things continue to develop, the implications of its implementation are beginning to surface. Institutions statewide, including DePaul, will feel the effects of the bill, if passed.

After receiving approval from both the House and Senate, the bill has now moved to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk and awaits his signature. According to The Huffington Post, this legislation would permit citizens with diseases like HIV and cancer to receive up to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana with the permission of a physician and an assigned ID card.

Dr. Suzanne Carlberg-Racich, a visiting professor with the Master of Public Health program, explained that this new law does not allow doctors to simply write prescriptions that can be filled at the pharmacy. Instead, they would be expected to provide written clarification saying the patient has a qualifying medical condition that would benefit from cannabis use. From there, the patient would submit the doctor’s note to the Illinois Department of Public Health to receive an ID card. They would then be able to acquire medical cannabis from the state-run dispensary.

If DePaul Health Services decided to take advantage of this legislation, they would be expected to work through this process. However, Carlberg-Racich pointed out that physicians are the only medical personnel allowed to distribute these written clarifications. Therefore, students and faculty using health services would not be able to get permission from DePaul’s nurse practitioners and other mid-level providers.

However, it is possible for DePaul to bypass the prospective law. According to Dr. Paula Kagan, a professor in DePaul’s School of Nursing, the university is in control of the changes it makes to campus policy since it is a private institution.

“Prescriptions for medicinal cannabis would have to comply with state laws, standards of practice, and criteria for clinical prescription and use,” said Kagan. “When the law changes…there will be special dispensaries unaffiliated with universities where patients have their prescriptions filled. The university would have to develop policies regarding the on-campus use of cannabis for health purposes for those with a prescription.

“There will have to be some dialogue and policy development around the issue of marijuana used by students or faculty and staff who have a prescription and need to use it during their time on campus in order to alleviate their symptoms and provide relief.”

However, both Kagan and Carlberg-Racich believe the law, if passed, would benefit students, faculty and citizens outside DePaul’s borders. Kagan detailed several medical benefits of cannabis, which helps alleviate symptoms from nausea to pain relief. She also made it clear that THC, the ingredient typically associated with the high caused by marijuana, is not something that should be strengthened for medicinal use.

Carlberg-Racich added diseases like Parkinson’s and hepatitis to the list of ailments medical cannabis can combat. She also believes this legislation would not be a gateway for further marijuana abuse and would even help alleviate the social stigma of the drug.

“The medical benefits have been demonstrated and proven, and it’s time for the law to catch up to the scientific evidence,” said Carlberg-Racich.