Pubdate: Sun, 17 Jan 2016
Source: News-Gazette, The (Champaign, IL)
Copyright: 2016 The News-Gazette
Author: Ross Morreale
Note: Ross Morreale is chairman of the Medical Cannabis Alliance of 
Illinois and chief compliance officer of Ataraxia, an Albion-based 
medical marijuana cultivation center.


Medical cannabis has been available to Illinois patients for nearly 
two months and we have already witnessed countless success stories 
about how this natural remedy is helping people live an improved 
quality of life. In many cases, this improvement comes after all 
other treatment options have failed.

The medical cannabis industry has invested more than $250 million in 
Illinois while training a new workforce, employing more than 500 
people and becoming an economic engine for communities still reeling 
from the recession. Local mayors who are happy to see residents back 
to work, restaurants full and a renewed interest in real-estate 
development support the program. Operating at about half-capacity, 
the industry has the potential to change the landscape of Illinois.

The first few months of sales included flower products with the first 
wave of edibles released in mid-December. Moving into the first 
quarter of 2016, oils, tinctures, concentrates, sublinguals, 
suppositories, topicals and other products will be available at 
dispensaries throughout the state.

The industry has accomplished a great deal since the program launched 
in November; however, there are significant steps that need to be 
taken to protect patients, businesses and the state's economy.

Illinois regulators must do more to educate physicians about the 
program and certification process. While many physicians recognize 
the benefit of medical cannabis, many are unfamiliar with the 
process. State regulators have a responsibility to streamline the 
process and provide information to physicians so they can make 
educated decisions and provide the most comprehensive care available 
to patients.

With only 3,600 patients approved for treatment, the current program 
is not viable. Despite the recommendation from the Medical Cannabis 
Advisory Board to approve 11 conditions, including post-traumatic 
stress disorder and diabetic neuropathy, only 39 conditions are 
eligible for medical cannabis treatment. Furthermore, the onerous 
application process, including treating patients like criminals by 
requiring fingerprinting, is a significant barrier that must be eliminated.

Finally, the state must act to make the pilot program permanent so 
patients and businesses can live with certainty.

Cultivation and dispensary operators are local business men and women 
with a deep commitment to improving the lives of patients and 
becoming positive members of their respective communities. The 
industry has built a strong foundation but needs the support of 
regulators to increase employment, generate economic velocity and, 
most importantly, provide cannabis to suffering patient not currently 
approved for treatment.

The industry is dedicated to working with lawmakers and regulators in 
2016 to make the medical cannabis program a success in Illinois and 
something other states can look to as a model.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom