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Medical Marijuana in Chicago: Everything You Need To Know

By Josh McGhee | November 18, 2015 6:08am
 An Illinois Medical Cannabis card.
An Illinois Medical Cannabis card.
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DNAinfo/J

CHICAGO — Last week, eight medical marijuana dispensaries opened across Illinois, marking the beginning of legal sales in the state.

According to the Sun-Times, dispensaries sold nearly $211,000 worth of marijuana in the first week. Breaking those numbers down further, 806 patients bought 406 ounces of marijuana at roughly $450 per ounce, the report said.

None of those sales occurred in Chicago because the first dispensary has yet to open. Last week, the owners of Modern Cannabis in Logan Square, which hoped to be open for the first day of sales, announced it won't open until next year. Meanwhile in Andersonville, Dispensary 33, which has emerged as the likely first dispensary to open in the city, opened its doors to the public and celebrated with a ribbon cutting, despite not having the OK to sell products yet.

 DNAinfo asked Bob Morgan, the former coordinator of the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, a few questions about how the program works.
DNAinfo asked Bob Morgan, the former coordinator of the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, a few questions about how the program works.
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Courtesy of Bob Morgan

As Chicago prepares for the opening of its first medical marijuana dispensary, one thing that is certain is people have questions (like when will Chicago open its first dispensary?).

So DNAinfo asked Bob Morgan, the former coordinator of the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, a few questions about how the program works. In the pilot program, Morgan "was responsible for implementation and management of the medical cannabis system in Illinois." He now represents marijuana businesses across the U.S. "advising other states on the development of medical cannabis programs, and assisting eligible patients in Illinois."

What illnesses qualify for medical marijuana?

Morgan: There are 37 debilitating conditions that qualify someone to participate in the medical cannabis program including cancer, epilepsy, severe fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis.

A full list of qualifying conditions is available here.

How do you qualify for a medical marijuana card? 

Morgan: To qualify you must be an Illinois resident, suffer from one of the 37 listed debilitating medical conditions, receive a certification of your condition from a doctor with whom you have a bona fide patient-physician relationship, pay the annual fee to the Illinois Department of Public Health and complete a background check. 

For more information click here.

What steps do you need to take between receiving your card and receiving medications? 

Morgan: After you receive a card, and once you have selected a dispensary, you can then visit that dispensary during normal business hours and purchase medical cannabis (up to 2.5 ounces every 14 days).

How does Illinois program differ from other states?

Morgan: Illinois has a more regulated medical cannabis program than in many other states such as California.  Our limited list of eligible medical conditions, small number of dispensaries to cover the entire state (up to 60), and strong physician requirements are different from earlier and less regulated medical cannabis states. However, we benefited from some of the best practices in states like Colorado and Washington to make sure our laboratory testing standards, and patient legal protections are better than most cannabis programs in the country.

Why is Chicago lagging behind issuing licenses while other dispensaries have already opened? 

Morgan: Generally, the reason for the delay in Chicago is the additional layer of Chicago-specific zoning requirements. Despite the delay, most Chicago dispensaries (up to 13) will be up and running in the next month or two)

Is recreational marijuana also being considered in Illinois? 

Morgan: Although one bill was recently introduced in the legislature to tax and regulate adult-use cannabis, much of the focus right now is on evaluating our medical cannabis program and looking to improve it moving forward.

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