Unless, of course, you’re Illinois.
The number of Illinois residents applying for and receiving medical marijuana cards continues to climb sharply, while the state’s legal cannabis cultivation centers continue to race the clock to have medicine to sell by the fall deadline mandated under the law that created the state medical cannabis pilot program.
About 3,500 people have applied for the cards, a 40-percent increase over the number four months ago, according to recently posted numbers by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The problem seems to be Illinois’ intense regulatory structures for both patients and for dispensaries. Those looking to apply to use medical marijuana must pay an application fee of $100 and agree to having their fingerprints placed on file for law enforcement. They must also have a doctor fill out a pile of paperwork, but the state has done very little to help educate doctors on how to fill out and file a patient’s application.
Dispensaries have faced regulatory hurdles as well. Despite assurances from the state and a looming September deadline for dispensaries to open or lose their licenses, no licenses were approved until after January, as the previous gubernatorial administration put off the decision to the current one. Once licensed, dispensaries must have product, but the state licensing process also delayed cultivation. So even though the state is currently approving (some) licenses, most approved patients have nowhere to purchase their drug.
When they do open, of course, many of those patients will be the only patients in their chosen dispensary. The state has accepted patient applications for almost a year, but has, so far, only approved 2800, which means that, despite the state’s “best efforts,” each of the 52 sanctioned dispensaries will have only an average of 47 customers.
Too many dispensaries, not enough patients and everyone is impacted by onerous and slow-moving state-sponsored regulatory bodies: medicinal marijuana is easily becoming Illinois’ next boondoggle.