State director wrongly barred pot for PTSD, judge rules

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The Illinois public health director has wrongly denied veterans and others suffering post traumatic stress disorder from receiving medical marijuana to alleviate their condition, a Cook County judge ruled Tuesday.

Associate judge Neil H. Cohen of Cook County Chancery Court ruled that director Nirav D. Shah acted illegally when he rejected the unanimous recommendation of an advisory board established under state law and refused to add PTSD to the list of conditions for which marijuana could be legally prescribed. Cohen, in an opinion issued Tuesday, ruled that Shah’s decision was so clearly wrong that the judge took the decision out of Shah’s hands and ordered PTSD be added to the list of conditions for which the drug could be prescribed.

At issue was veteran Daniel Paul Jabs’s 2015 petition to add PTSD to the list of conditions for which medical marijuana could be prescribed under Illinois law. Jabs reported widespread flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and insomnia, among other symptoms, after having been part of a team that was subjected to frequent ambushes in Iraq.

After a public hearing at which testimony was presented that cannabis can alleviate PTSD, the 10-member advisory board established by the Department of Public Health unanimously recommended that PTSD, along with 10 other medical conditions, be added to the list of conditions for which marijuana could be legally prescribed. Under the state law legalizing medical marijuana, Shah was then to consider and act on the board’s recommendation.

But Shah acted illegally in two ways, Cohen ruled. The director conducted his own investigation and supplemented his own evidence to the record, which Jabs had no chance to contest. That, Cohen ruled, was a “blatant denial of procedural due process.”

Additionally, the opinion states, Shah failed to follow the standard adopted by the Department on whether a condition should be added. The department’s standard called for a condition to be added if the patient “would benefit from the medical use” of marijuana. But Shah adopted his own standard: Whether there was “substantial evidence from adequate, well-controlled clinical trials to support” prescribing marijuana for PTSD.

Cohen wrote that based on the improper action by the director, there was no point in sending the case back to the department for further action, a delay that would only “increase the suffering of plaintiff and other victims of PTSD when no valid basis exists for denying the petition.”

RELATED: Read Judge Cohen’s decision