Pubdate: Thu, 08 Aug 2013
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2013 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Michelle Manchir


But It Will Likely Be a Long Wait As State Implements Law

The sign in the window of the office building in West Town was enough 
to bring in a steady stream of potential customers. Its message read: 
"Medical marijuana may be right for you."

Wednesday was opening day for the office of Brian Murray, a general 
practice physician who said he runs a clinic in Michigan where 
qualified patients can receive medical marijuana. But the new 
Illinois law allowing medical marijuana won't provide anyone with the 
drug until next year.

The Illinois law, signed this month by Gov. Pat Quinn, allows for the 
legal possession, use and sale of marijuana for some 40 medical 
conditions, including HIV, AIDS, cancer and other diseases. It is far 
more restrictive than laws in some other states, which allow use of 
the drug for catch-all categories like chronic pain.

The Illinois law requires that patients have an existing relationship 
with a physician who can provide documentation to support his or her 
medical need to use the drug, which remains a federally banned substance.

Murray said opening the clinic now makes it possible to establish a 
meaningful doctor-patient relationship for clients who may not have 
another doctor.

But some who walked into the office Wednesday simply had questions 
about the law or wanted to find out how to open a distribution 
center. None asked to buy marijuana on the spot, said Daniel Reid, a 
spokesman for the office.

What the clinic offered was a chance to file medical histories and 
fill out a background form for Murray, who said he would later 
consider helping them qualify for medical marijuana. On Wednesday, 
the clinic charged some people a $99 fee for an individual care plan 
that would later be formulated.

Even qualified patients are expected to have a long wait before 
getting their hands on the drug. The new law, which sets up a 
fouryear trial program, takes effect Jan. 1 and requires state 
regulators to spend months coming up with rules that spell out who 
gets to open the 22 marijuana growing operations across the state - 
and how patients will get medical marijuana cards from doctors. It 
could be fall 2014 before patients legally use marijuana in Illinois.

Some visitors to the West Town office said they found out about the 
clinic through news reports that called it the state's "first medical 
marijuana clinic."

Stuart Bander, 50, who said he's been suffering from multiple 
sclerosis for 20 years, was disappointed with the staff's answers to 
his questions about the law.

"I know more than they do," he said. "They're doing nothing."

But others, such as Jackson Delgado of Chicago, said they hoped to 
have a chance to sit down with Murray. Delgado, 25, said he did not 
have a regular primary care physician and hoped to get medical 
marijuana to treat insomnia. But that is not one of the listed 
ailments covered by the law.

"I don't want to see anybody that uses any kind of chemical (drug)," 
Delgado said. "I want to go natural."

Tammy Jacobi, an assistant to Murray, staffed the clinic Wednesday 
and made copies of medical histories that people brought in. She also 
gave out information about medical marijuana side effects. Jacobi, 
who said she works with Murray in Michigan, explained that if people 
already have primary care physicians, they should go to them first.

"If they have any trouble then they can come here, or if they don't 
have a primary care physician then they can also come here," Murray 
said, adding that the clinic will act as a "pathway for (patients) to 
get certified" for medical marijuana when it becomes available.

Murray said there's no promise his new clients will get their hands 
on the drug.

"That's up to the state," Murray said.

Just before the clinic closed for the day Wednesday, two men who said 
they were from the state medical board showed up and met privately with Murray.

When asked about the meeting, a spokeswoman for the Illinois 
Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Susan Hofer, 
said she could not confirm that anyone from the department had been 
to the office.

Hofer said that because rules for the "prior relationship" with the 
doctor who helps a patient qualify to receive medical marijuana 
haven't been established yet, nobody can say whether what's going on 
at this clinic would qualify as a prior relationship when the law 
goes into effect.

Jacobi said she hoped the 75-some patients who filed paperwork with 
Murray's office Wednesday would help persuade state officials to move 
faster on implementing the law.

"We want to keep sick people out of the back alleys for getting their 
medicine," Jacobi said.

- -Tribune reporters Mitch Smith and Peter Frost contributed.
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