Today marks a historic day for the State of Illinois, as medical Cannabis sales officially commenced pursuant to former Governor Pat Quinn’s August 2013 Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. Many of the preparations began last week, when patients were mailed their medical ID cards, and the Department of Agriculture authorized growers to ship their product to dispensaries around the state. The new medicine will be sold at one of eight licensed facilities: The Clinic in Mundelein; Salveo Health & Wellness in Cantonl; Herbal Remedies in Quincy; EarthMed in Addison; and three PharmaCannis dispensaries in North Aurora, Schaumburg, and Ottawa. Another dispensary, PDI Medical, will be debuting in Buffalo Grove in late November. While Illinois’ medical Cannabis program marks a historic policy shift away from the draconian inflexibility of prohibition, there is still a long way to go.
The program has been criticized for unduly restricting patient access to the plant, as only those suffering from one of roughly forty qualifying conditions may legally purchase the plant. The problem is that the state’s qualifying conditions are limited to only grave illnesses like cancer, glaucoma, MS, or fibrous dysplasia, to name a few. Less severe (but seriously debilitating) conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and osteoarthritis remain ineligible for medical Cannabis ID cards, despite overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of such treatment. See e.g., Cannabinoid receptors and the regulation of bone mass. Bab, I., Ofek, O., Tam, J., Rehnelt, J. and Zimmer, A. (2008), Endocannabinoids and the Regulation of Bone Metabolism. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 20: 69–74 (concluding that Cannabis and cannabinoids represent a promising treatment for reducing arthritic pain and inflammation, along with positively modulating bone growth and maintenance). Furthermore, eligible patients must also undergo intensive criminal background screenings, making the Illinois medical Cannabis application far more rigorous than in other states.
One glaring consequence of such staunch regulations is that Illinois’ initial medical Cannabis market is extremely small, currently comprising less than 5,000 patients. Although the market will increase over time, it is up to Governor Rauner to approve future recommendations of additional qualifying conditions from the state’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board. For now though, the debut of medical Cannabis in Illinois ushers in a bold new industry with the potential to alleviate the state’s current budget crisis.