(CBS) — More than 11,000 people suffering from painful conditions have received medical marijuana cards since the state of Illinois’ pilot program began in 2014.
Many more are still waiting, having to jump through so many hoops critics say the program needs to be streamlined.
2 Investigator Pam Zekman checked it out after getting a complaint from a patient who has waited five months for approval.
“It breaks my heart to see her like this,” says Christine Brazeau.
She has been trying to get her mother a medical marijuana card since May. Mary Dal Pino, 77, has spinal stenosis, C-O-P-D and needs oxygen to breathe. Her Rheumatoid Arthritis qualifies her for medical marijuana.
“It does hurt like hell and I don’t know what the hell the state’s doing,” Dal Pino says.
The state requires a doctor’s certification that an applicant a qualifying condition to get a card.
And fingerprints are needed for a criminal history check by the Illinois State Police and the FBI.
Prescribed pain medications have not helped Dal Pino. Her daughter thought marijuana might.
“It might help, or it might not. But let’s try it and see,” Brazeau says.
Their efforts have been frustrated by processing delays, including having to have their fingerprints taken twice.
The process usually takes up to 48 hours, says James Williams of Biometric Impressions, where Dal Pino’s prints were taken.
Mary’s first set of prints were taken May 15. They were deemed “unacceptable” by the state and FBI because they lacked a “clear ridge detail.” This is a problem that Dal Pina has with her fingers.
A second set of fingerprints once again failed to pass muster with authorities.
Only then was Dal Pina allowed to apply for a “name based background check.” And, when the family still hadn’t heard anything a month later, Brazaeu called CBS 2.
“This is ridiculous,” the daughter says. “The state of Illinois should be ashamed of themselves.”
Medical marijuana advocates say Illinois is the only state that requires a fingerprint background check.
“We believe those burdens need to be removed. Patients should not have to undergo that extra step,” says Ali Nagib of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
“It just seems ridiculous. How many more people are waiting?” Dal Pina adds.
A state spokesperson says this is still a pilot program and the agencies involved are working to improve its procedures.
The agency was never notified of problems with Dal Pino’s fingerprints and will look at implementing procedures to ensure that the same thing doesn’t happen to others. The spokesperson says the rules require applicants get a medical marijuana card within 30 days after completing all of the paperwork.
Days ago, Dal Pino got word she has passed her background check and her card is in the mail.