File Photo – McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally | Photo: Gregory Shaver/Shaw Media (Pool)

The McHenry County state’s attorney has responded to the “Marijuana Moms,” a group of former and current lawmakers, after they called him out for forcing cannabis dispensaries to display new health warnings.

McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally announced in September that cannabis dispensaries in McHenry County would be required to warn customers of potential side effects of the use of cannabis.

Those side effects, Kenneally said, include psychosis, depression and suicidal ideation.

McHenry County dispensaries would be the first in the country to post such warnings.

Dispensaries will also be prohibited from making “false claims that cannabis has any medical benefits” in their product marketing materials and online content, Kenneally said.

Dispensaries that have refused to warn consumers will face litigation brought by the state’s attorney’s office.

Two different warnings will required to be posted prominently in the dispenaries.

“WARNING: Cannabis use may contribute to mental health problems, including psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, increased thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts, anxiety, and depression. Risk is greatest for frequent users,” one of the required signs says.

The second required sign will warn customers that the FDA has not approved cannabis for the treatment of any disease or medical condition.

Kenneally, citing the Surgeon General, CDC and other agencies, said there is a “clear association” between cannabis use and schizophrenia.

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“A robust and growing body of research similarly establishes that cannabis can initiate and worsen depression, bipolar, anxiety, and suicidal ideation,” Kenneally said.

The state’s attorney said Illinois and its regulatory agencies have “done nothing” to warn consumers of the potential effects.

He said regulatory agencies have also failed to stop cannabis dispensaries that flout the law by “brazenly making ‘health, medicinal, and therapeutic’ claims about their products.”

Kenneally said suicides nearly doubled in 2022 and cannabis was the most common drug found in the blood samples of those individuals. He also said hospitalizations for suicidal ideation have increased significantly since 2020.

Approximately half of recent murders involve cannabis or cannabis-induced psychosis, he said, adding that driving under the influence of cannabis cases have doubled.

Following the announcement, Illinois Representative Kelly Cassidy, Illinois Speaker Pro Tempore Jehan Gordon-Booth, former Illinois Senator Toi Hutchinson and former Illinois Senator Heather Steans issued a public statement calling out Kenneally.

The four, who call themselves “Marijuana Moms,” said the state’s attorney “carelessly conflates” cannabis use with the most complex societal issues and has joined the “disinformation brigade.”

“To the McHenry State’s Attorney, the tragedies of violent crime, addiction, mental illness, and suicide can be narrowed down to one oversimplified, unbelievably obvious common denominator – they’re all a bunch of pot users,” the lawmakers said in the statement.

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Just two days before Kenneally announced the new requirements, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially recognized the medical benefits of marijuana and recommended the DEA to reschedule marijuana as a Schedule III substance.

The “Marijuana Moms” group argued that marijuana use has many benefits, including helping people deal with medical issues.

The group also said the state’s legal cannabis industry has led to economic benefits and reinvestment into Illinois communities thanks to over $500 million in new state and local tax revenue annually.

In a lengthy 18-page letter, Kenneally responded to the group earlier this week.

The state’s attorney poked fun at the group’s “Marijuana Moms” nickname, calling it manipulative because motherhood “fares well” in favorability polling.

“While they get to play the plucky and adorable role of Marijuana Moms, unfortunately, there is no role in their public relations performance for the ‘Consumer Protection Dad’ or ‘Dad for Mental Health.’ No, I have been assigned to play the part of Henry Anslinger, the menacing reactionary and anti-jazz black-hat. Very well-played Marijuana Moms,” Kenneally said.

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The state’s attorney said in his response that the Illinois legislature hides the “devastatingly real dangers” of cannabis by “having (very cleverly) rebranded it as ‘medicine.'”

Kenneally cited a McHenry County case that went to trial last year involving William Bishop, 45, of Chicago.

Bishop was found guilty but mentally ill of first-degree murder, driving under the influence and other charges for a May 2020 crash near Hebron.

Bishop vaped high-concentration THC oil on the day of the crash and believed Howard Stern told him through the radio to veer into oncoming traffic, which he did, Kenneally said.

He killed a father of two and permanently disabled another man. Bishop’s THC content was twice the legal limit.

Bishop claimed insanity on the grounds that he was suffering from cannabis-induced psychosis.

“While the story of how Mr. Bishop and the victims ultimately ended up colliding at 80 mph on a rural McHenry County highway, to be sure, is “complex,” injecting high-concentration THC into the complex reality certainly did not help any,” Kenneally said.

The state’s attorney called on the Marijuana Moms to “follow the science” before listing off dozens of studies on the health effects of cannabis at the end of his response.