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(Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP)

Editorial: Give medical marijuana program a chance to work

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With every day that passes, it becomes more important that Gov. Bruce Rauner sign a bill resetting the start date of Illinois’ medical marijuana pilot program. At the same time, if only to protect popular support for the pilot program, the governor has good reason to veto, for now, a companion bill that would add to the list of conditions for which medical pot can be subscribed.

The pilot program was expected to run for about four years, enough time to evaluate whether it helps people who are ill without creating unexpected problems. But due to a number of delays, the program has yet to start, and it is scheduled to end Jan. 1, 2018. The bill on Rauner’s desk would reset the start date, allowing the pilot program to get its full run.

Companies have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in setting up medical marijuana operations, and medical marijuana already is growing and should be ready for sale later this year. But if the pilot program lasts only a little more than two years, it will force companies to charge too much to recoup their upfront costs. Patients might turn to cheaper marijuana on the streets, and the pilot program will fail.

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The pilot program also needs more time to attract patients. Some 100,000 patients were expected to sign up, but so far only about 2,800 have completed the cumbersome paperwork and been approved. Once dispensaries are open for business, that number undoubtedly will rise.

But even as we urge Rauner to sign the bill resetting the start date of the pilot program, we believe he would be wise to veto a companion measure that would add post traumatic stress disorder to the list of diseases for which medical marijuana can be prescribed.

The medical community has not reached consensus on the effectiveness of medical marijuana in treating PTSD. The Illinois Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, which consists of medical professionals, favors allowing medical marijuana for PSTD. But the Colorado Board of Health last month rejected the idea, saying it’s supported by only anecdotal evidence, not science.

PTSD is a very real and difficult disorder, but it is also hard to diagnose, making it easy for people to claim to suffer from its symptoms just to get legal pot. Our concern is that this could undermine popular support for the pilot program. If the pilot is successful, this is an issue that can be revisited.

Medical marijuana is critically important to people who are in pain from numerous ailments that don’t respond as well to other treatment. For their sake, the Illinois medical marijuana pilot program deserves a fair trial.

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