By: Kim Riot
From what I understand, Illinois has issued a temporary program to allow patients to consume medical cannabis known as the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (MCPP). Effective August 1, 2013, MCPP will last until July 1, 2020 which at that point will be scheduled to be repealed. Illinois has an outstanding list of qualifying conditions compared to most states, but like most things, some of those conditions were added to the list with a price. The state has a lot of catching up to do as far as what other states have been doing medically, but I think we are heading in the right direction.
Just like anywhere else that has medical cannabis, a patient must have a diagnosis from the list of qualifying conditions. A relationship with a primary physician is best, but you can always get further help through a clinic like Innovative Express Care. Clinics like these throughout Illinois are employed with Cannabis Advocates ready to help patients get everything they need to obtain their card!
The rest of the process from there can get a little pricey, so if you are reading this in preparation of receiving your card, then I advise you to be prepared to pay in full (approximately $450 in total). Illinois does offer Veterans and those who qualify for SSDI a discount to help with the funding. Initially, the first person a patient will pay is their doctor. Unless the patient has insurance, then they are paying a price for a diagnosis depending on the doctor. The next fee will happen if the patient decides to go through a a Cannabis Advocate and have help filling out the forms for them. Each clinic has their own fee and their own way of handling business; I would recommend seeing what clinics are near you and compare prices! Most of these clinics will charge a fee for filling out the application for the patient and setting them up for fingerprinting. Some clinics may even have doctors on site and may require you to have a couple visits with them first. Each patient must compete a background check within 30 days of submitting an application to the IDPH and not have any kind of drug felony. The final payment is for the golden ticket: The Cannabis Card itself! Basically, it's $100/year unless the patient pays for a 3 year card, then it is discounted up to $50. Once the card expires, the patient must pay the annual $100 fee before expiration, or face consequences of repeating steps above.
One thing I have found out while being a patient, is that most dispensaries are eager to help with this process too! A lot of them hold special patient days and educational seminars for those inquiring about a card. Those special days for patients will usually have fingerprinting on site and have it at a discounted price. Don't be afraid to call the nearest dispensary and see what they offer! All of the forms to obtain your card can be found on the IDPH website and you can fill out most of the information yourself, which will save money. (Are you a Dispensary owner? I can list your educational seminars and special events on my EVENT PAGE! Let's talk!)
Once the cannabis card is in hand, there are certain laws to keep patients restricted. For example, a cannabis patient must register to ONE dispensary. ONLY ONE! Anyone is welcome to visit dispensaries throughout Illinois, but they must have a cannabis card to access the area where the cannabis is being held. Being registered to a selected dispensary ensures that the patient will be picking up from one location. My idea is that it is easier for the state to keep an eye on patients. A cannabis patient can switch their dispensary at any time by filling out the respective forms. After 24 hours, the switch will be ready and the patient can purchase from the new dispensary.
As a Cannabis Patient myself, I am allowed to purchase 2.5 ounces every 2 weeks. Some patients request an increase in their allotment, but this requires a doctor's approval. Patients in Illinois are not allowed to grow their own medicine, whereas most medical states allow at least up to 3 plants to grow in a patient's care. Overall, Illinois has been having a great run with Medical Cannabis. As do most things, it has been starting off rocky, but a lot of patients are advocates as well as activists and we have been stirring up the pot to get our voices heard! In total, there are 24,450 qualifying patients here in Illinois, with about 200 of those patients being minors. There are 53 lisenced and respected dispensaries throughout the state with a grand total of 371,795 grams of flower purchased.
Every state handling medical cannabis is different and every state has sticky hands and politics in those green nugs. Illinois is really no different, except their hands are death grips on the cannabis itself. Illinois is sitting on some of the biggest debt in the country and yet they close their doors to the biggest cash cow the state may ever see. However, in defense of the Cannabis Community, whenever someone like Governor Rauner try to take down our precious plant like disbanding the Illinois Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, we come back stronger than ever!
To Be Continued...
Next week, I will go over the details of what happened to the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board and the deal Gov. Rauner made. I will also write a little bit more about the Pilot Program and ways we can ensure that this prgram becomes permanent in our state! Thanks for reading!