In Chicago, a dispute between “Marijuana Moms,” a group of Illinois lawmakers who supported legalizing cannabis, and McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally, referred to as the “Dad for Mental Health,” is intensifying the debate over cannabis’ mental health effects and legalization.
The Marijuana Moms include state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, Speaker Pro Tempore Jehan Gordon-Booth, former state Sen. Toi Hutchinson and former state Sen. Heather Steans.
The feud arose shortly after Kenneally imposed a mandate on McHenry County marijuana retailers to display warnings about risks, such as psychosis and depression, linked to cannabis use. McHenry is the sixth-most populous county in Illinois. At the time, Cassidy and Steans issued a statement saying that Kenneally “carelessly conflates cannabis use with the most complex societal issues that our own Illinois researchers, institutions, and community leaders work collectively every day to further understand and improve upon.”
Kenneally’s measures also include prohibiting claims of medical benefits in cannabis dispensary marketing, part of a settlement to avoid consumer fraud litigation.
In August, Kenneally also slammed Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) for signing a law that limits judges from barring marijuana and alcohol use for those with criminal pasts. Pritzker signed the cannabis legalization bill into law in 2019.
The Marijuana Moms, wrote the Chicago Tribune, are openly refuting Kenneally’s claims, likening his approach to historical anti-cannabis rhetoric. They also pointed to a late August request from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Drug Enforcement Administration, suggesting reclassifying cannabis to acknowledge its medical benefits.
FDA’s Limited Approval Of Medical Marijuana
Contrasting Kenneally’s stance, the Food and Drug Administration has sanctioned limited use of cannabis components for medical purposes, and many of Illinois’s 138,000 patients are authorized to use cannabis for various conditions, including chronic pain and PTSD.
In an opinion piece in the Chicago Tribune, Kenneally criticized what he called the “pseudoscience” claims of medical benefits for a wide variety of conditions, saying there is no credible evidence that cannabis treats any medical condition.
The group noted that medical marijuana patients have said cannabis has helped restore their quality of life for late-stage cancer patients and end debilitating seizures. In addition, cannabis revenue has generated about half a billion dollars annually to support poor neighborhoods, mental health and substance abuse clinics, and law enforcement.
“We stand willing to work with anyone from anywhere in our great state to address consumer safety, public safety, public health, and child development,” the lawmakers wrote. “We will not, however, stand idly and allow others to point myopically to cannabis to nonsensically explain away highly complex, multifaceted societal problems.”
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