Metro-East News

3,000 Illinois residents approved for medical cannabis cards

The number of Illinois residents applying for and receiving medical marijuana cards grew slowly in August, at a time when the state’s legal cannabis cultivation centers are pushing hard to have medicine in dispensaries to sell by the fall deadline mandated under the law that created the state medical cannabis pilot program.

About 3,700 people have applied for the cards, while about 3,000 have won approval for them, according to Illinois Department of Public Health, which on the first Wednesday of each month updates the figures for submitted applications and approval letters.

These numbers compare to the month before, at which point 3,500 had applied for the cards and 2,800 had received approval letters — increases of 5.7 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively.

Twelve applications have been approved for patients under 18 years of age, according to the department.

Under state law, the state public health department is prohibited from disclosing the recipients or even breaking down the numbers by county or region.

The department’s record-keeping system does not provide a breakdown of where the applicants and letter recipients reside, according to Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the state public health department.

Michael Mayes, a medical cannabis consultant and investor based in Chicago, predicted a big upsurge in patient applications for the cards once the first batches of medicine arrives in the state’s more than 50 licensed dispensaries.

Mayes noted that the cards expire after only one-year, which means most likely patients have little incentive to go through the expense and hassle of obtaining the cards until the medicine becomes available, which is expected to occur in the next two months.

“Unless there is product to be acquired, it really doesn’t really make sense for a low-income individual or someone who has a very debilitating illness to go through that process,” said Mayes, the CEO of Quantum 9. Mayes noted that applicants must be finger-printed, go through a federal background check and pay an annual fee of $100, in addition to getting the card signed by a primary care physician who’s been seeing the patient on a regular basis.

“For a very ill patient, who’s very debilitated, that could be a mountain,” Mayes said.

Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 618-239-2533.

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