Metro-East News

Slow growth in number of Illinois patients OK’d for medical marijuana

The number of Illinois residents applying for and receiving medical marijuana cards in September has slowed to a virtual crawl, even as the state’s legal cannabis cultivation centers are pushing hard to have medicine in more than 50 state-licensed dispensaries by December.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has issued only 100 approval letters to qualifying patients over the past month, bumping up the total to 3,100, according to the IDPH website.

Almost 4,000 have submitted a complete application. Sixteen applications for persons younger than 18 have been approved. This compares to a month earlier, when just 12 minors had been approved for the cards.

Almost 25,000 citizens have started the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program patient registry application process since IDPH began accepting applications on Sept. 2, 2014.

In early September, about 3,700 people had applied for the cards, while about 3,000 had won approval for them, according to IDPH, 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.

A state-approved cultivation center in East St. Louis has won permission to begin growing medical marijuana, while two metro-east dispensaries — in Sauget and Collinsville, respectively — are under construction and plan to open for business within the next three months.

In other cannabis-related news, a state advisory board voted Wednesday to add eight health conditions — including chronic pain syndrome, autism, osteoarthritis and post-traumatic stress disorder — to the list of 39 illnesses that can be treated by medical marijuana in Illinois.

The state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board had earlier expressed frustration last month when Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration rejected its first 11 suggestions for augmenting the list of medical conditions. Osteoarthritis and PTSD were on that earlier list, so Wednesday’s votes reaffirmed the board’s viewpoint and put the matter back in Rauner’s hands.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000