Patients line up outside EarthMed in Addison, IL (Photo Credit: Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
Patients line up outside EarthMed in Addison, IL (Photo Credit: Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)

After a lengthy and delayed licensing process, medical marijuana sales begin in Illinois today. As many as eight medical marijuana dispensaries are set to open today in the Prairie State.

According to state officials, patient identification cards were mailed to the nearly 3,300 approved applicants on October 30. Illinois medical patients will be permitted to purchase up to two and a half ounces every two weeks.

The pilot program for medical marijuana will see a total of 18 cultivation facilities and 60 dispensaries, many of which will be open by the end of the year. The initial sales come more than two years after former Governor Pat Quinn signed the bill in August 2013. State regulators gave cultivators the green light to begin shipping cannabis products to retail dispensaries late last week.

Illinois’ new Governor, Bruce Rauner, has been less receptive to the program, leading to delays in its implementation. This approach, along with the stringent nature of the law, has drawn the criticism of industry stakeholders an advocates.

The rules not only require a doctor’s recommendation to use medical cannabis, but also a criminal background check. Patient advocates argue that access should be based on medical necessity as opposed to criminal history.

Among the dispensaries scheduled to open today is EarthMed in Addison. “After an arduous and intense application process, we are thrilled to see our clients finally open today. Despite the delays, patients will finally get access to the life-saving medicine they need,” said Nick Brait of the Greene Consulting Group who acted as consultants guiding EarthMed through the process.

Despite the delays and strict patient application process, Illinois is likely to have a robust system that serves the needs of many patients in the state.

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