CHICAGO (CBS) — The long wait for relief could be coming to an end for thousands of people who suffer from painful diseases or conditions, as medical marijuana sales were set began Monday at eight dispensaries across Illinois.
Illinois lawmakers approved legislation legalizing medical marijuana in August 2013, but the process of approving and setting up licensed cultivation centers and dispensaries has delayed the implementation of the pilot program, and it wasn’t until Monday that the first dispensaries were allowed to begin selling legal medical cannabis.
Four of the licensed dispensaries are located in the Chicago area – in Addison, Mundelein, North Aurora, and Schaumburg. The others are in Quincy, along the Missouri state line in west central Illinois; Marion, at the far southern tip of the state; in Canton, about 30 miles southwest of Peoria; and in Ottawa, in north central Illinois, about 80 miles southwest of Chicago.
State officials have said they expect to have a total of about 25 dispensaries opened by the end of the year.
The state has approved a list of 39 diseases and conditions for which medical marijuana use is approved – including AIDS, epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
To buy any medical marijuana, a patient must obtain a state ID card. To get the card, patients must have proof from a doctor that they have one of the qualifying diseases or conditions, and submit fingerprints and get criminal background checks. As of Monday, only about 3,300 people have obtained medical marijuana ID cards.
The EarthMed dispensary in Addison opened at 11 a.m. Monday. Bill Wilson said he knows marijuana will help his chronic back pain, because he went to Colorado over the summer and tried some.
“I tried most of the edibles, because I don’t enjoy smoking, but I’m going to try vaporizing, where it doesn’t combust the herb, it just warms it up and allows you to take in the vapor. So it won’t smell like marijuana, and I can’t stand the smell of marijuana,” he said.
Wilson said a degenerative disc disease forced him into early retirement, because of the near constant pain.
“When you’re in pain every day, it is very hard to maintain any kind of upbeat attitude. You’re just, you’re miserable, and it’s every day of your life. It’s not like, ‘Oh, I have a toothache, it’ll be gone tomorrow.’ It’s every single day, and it takes its toll on you, and the marijuana actually put me in a better mood, along with helping with the pain,” he said.
Wilson said he’s a card-carrying Republican who always has been anti-drug, until he found out marijuana significantly reduced his pain.
Rico was among the dozens who lined up outside the Clinic Dispensary in Mundelein. He has longed to smoke to ease pain from a motorcycle accident.
“This means I won’t have to take all those pain medications,” he said. “I can relax and eat and lead a normal life.”
Most were buying the pot for themselves, but some were caretakers, like Joan Miller, moved to tears at the prospect of helping her son.
“It’s mainly tears for the heartache and the pain I see my son in every day and the days and days and days he goes without any sleep and hopefully this will help him,” she said.
The relief comes with a hefty price, $110 for quarter of an ounce, about seven marijuana cigarettes.
Customers will have to choose from the pictures, no touching or smelling. But you can’t even look without a state ID card. Once inside patients spend 10 to 15 minutes with a consultant.
The pilot program is set to end in December 2017.