Illinois, which legalized medical cannabis in 2013 and allows patients a relatively liberal 2.5 ounces of the kind herb every 14-days, has been operating its program for just long enough to collect thousands of applications from qualified patients. As such, the state has begun to produce some intelligent metrics that reveal exactly who it is serving and details about their specific needs based on their diseases.
In an eight-page annual report to the state’s Legislature — one of the requirements of the state’s medical law — some initial demographics of those taking advantage of the program have been revealed.
First, the most common profile for a patient of Illinois’ medical cannabis program is a middle aged or older female suffering from fibromyalgia or cancer. The state accepted 3,300 medical applications through the end of June. Sixty percent of those applicants were female, while more than half of applicants were over the age of 51. Other common diseases and conditions among registrants were spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis.
Some Illinois doctors seem to be bullish on medical cannabis for their patients and onboard with the program. One has written certifications for more than a thousand patients (and will probably be receiving a visit from the DEA as a result). However, while nearly 1,200 physicians submitted patient certifications, 99 percent of them certified fewer than 24 patients.
Illinois features a longer list of qualifying ailments than many of the U.S. states that permit some form of legal medical cannabis, including conditions not typically covered by other states like lupus, Tourette’s syndrome, and Tarlov cysts. The report noted that, despite its long list of covered ailments, Illinois does not recognize nondisease-specific chronic pain, while also spotlighting the fact that 18 of the 23 states that permit medical cannabis do.
The report states:
“Unlike those states, Illinois does not have a general chronic pain category for which no underlying disease or medical condition is identified.”
The report also noted that, “In Colorado, ‘chronic pain’ accounts for 93 percent of all reported debilitating conditions by patient applicants. In Arizona, 72 percent of patients apply under the ‘chronic pain’ category.”
The program also does not allow home cultivation or reciprocal access to registered patients in other states, but does permit caregivers. The first legal and licensed cannabis dispensaries in the Land of Lincoln are expected to be open and operational by the end of October.
photo credit: DPA