In 2013, Illinois joined the ranks of states throughout the US where the medicinal use of cannabis is legal, and after a two year delay, approved patients may finally have safe, reliable access to medicine before the end of the year. Illinois medical cannabis program officials have announced, to the relief of many patients and families, that for the first time in the state’s history, legal medical sales are expected to begin in the next two weeks.
Final approval has only been given to four dispensaries in the metro Chicago area, but several more are expected to be licensed in the near future. The program’s director, Joseph Wright stated,
“A total of approximately 12 to 15 dispensaries should be registered by the end of November. Eight or 9 of those will be located in the Chicagoland area.”
Anticipating the first day of legal sales, some Illinois-grown cannabis has reportedly already been processed and packaged, but dispensaries are not permitted to sell anything until they have access to the state’s medical cannabis database. Access to the database is required in order for dispensaries to be able to verify each patients’ information and program approval status. Once access is granted, at least a few dispensaries will be ready to begin sales immediately.
Many of the medical cannabis patients in Illinois are expected to be inexperienced when it comes to using the plant, and because cannabis affects every person differently, many may have to go through a trial-and-error period before finding the best strains, amounts and methods of consumption to treat their condition. In an effort to reduce the trial-and-error period for patients and to share important information, one medical cannabis company in Illinois — Cresco Labs — has launched a $1 million campaign to help educate patients and non-patients alike.
While excitement levels are at an all-time high for medical cannabis patients and activists, there is also a darker underlying issue to be faced in Illinois. By the time medical cannabis is legally available for purchase, Illinois will be about halfway through the initial four-year pilot program. If Gov. Bruce Rauner does not reauthorize the Illinois cannabis program in 2017, it will expire and cease to exist. Earlier this year, Gov. Rauner vetoed expanding the program to include 11 more conditions.
Huge news for drug reform and residents of Cook County. According to the county’s State Attorney Anita Alvarez, anyone caught with 30 grams of marijuana or less on their first or second offense will not be prosecuted. On a third offense offenders will be sent to drug schooling.
“What we are doing is simply not working,”
Alvarez said Monday morning.
She noted the huge waste time and money spent on cycling small time drug offenders in and out of the penal system, with the new approach based on “treatment instead of traditional prosecution.”
Additionally, offenders charged with a Class 4 felony who have a non-violent history will be sent to social service agencies for drug abuse treatment. Successful completion of the program will result in dropped charges.
“In drug school, the success is phenomenal. Ninety-percent of the people complete it and around 85-percent don’t have further drug arrest,”
Pam Rodriguez, Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) CEO said. TASC helps approximately 2,000 drug offenders a year with community-based treatment. One can imagine that with this new policy TASC stands to see their patient count rise dramatically.
“I am not promoting any drug use. I am not promoting legalization of anything,” Alvarez said.
“We have to ask ourselves are we being smart here? Are we giving people services they need? Or are we going to continue processing these cases?”
Many Illinois communities have already moved to issuing citations instead of prosecution in low level marijuana cases. Alvarez stated these tickets will still count as an arrest and offenders will still be liable for paying the fines.
Chicago’s 81st annual Thanksgiving Parade will be featuring an unusual addition to their lineup this year; a medical marijuana float. The parade which, is now call the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade, features marching bands, performance groups and even Santa himself.
Illinois recently passed legislature allowing medical marijuana, and has already approved 6 dispensary locations in the city. Now one of those dispensaries, Good Intentions, will be proudly marching proudly down State Street in downtown Chicago.
The float will have a live garden of onion grass and flowers, no marijuana this time. Store owner Tammy Jacobi said, “Just as plants grow and flower, the company has blossomed into an organization that provides hope for the most seriously ill citizens of Illinois.”
The company is keeping the float PG rated and doesn’t anticipate negative reactions. Jacobi said, “We’re hoping that parents take the time to explain what medical marijuana is to their children and enlighten a younger generation of the benefits of emerging science and compassion.”
via: DNA Info