Medical marijuana in Illinois begins but patients are wary

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Nov 10, 2015 06:00 AM EST
Tags illinois

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 05: A man smokes K2 or 'Spice', a synthetic marijuana drug, along a street in East Harlem on August 5, 2015 in New York City. New York, along with other cities, is experiencing a deadly epidemic of synthetic marijuana usage including varieties known as K2 or 'Spice' which can cause extreme reactions in some users. According to New York's health department, more than 120 people visited an emergency room in the city in just one week in April. While the state banned the ingredients used to make K2 in 2012, distributors have switched to other ingredients and names in an attempt to circumvent the law. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) (Photo : Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Eight dispensaries are set to open this week across Illinois, giving thousands of patients a chance to legally purchase medical marijuana.

In a report by the Illinois government, around 26,300 individuals have started registering for the pilot program since it opened in September 2014. Out of thousands, only 3,300 have received identification cards and were qualified to purchase cannabis from the dispensaries.

CBS News says the state of Illinois is one of 23 areas that has legalized the use of medical cannabis. A total of 25 other dispensaries are expected to open by the end of 2015.

Compared to similar programs in other states, the Chicago Tribune reports that the Illinois program is stricter. One requirement is that dispensaries must be located at least 1,000 feet from daycare centers and schools.

Patients are required to present a doctor's certification indicating that the individual has one of the 39 listed chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy or cancer. In addition, CBS Chicago says they have to pass a background check, present a government-issued ID and have their fingerprints taken.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, reporters were not allowed to step foot inside the dispensary other than patients. Gus Koukoutsakis, owner of the EarthMed dispensary in Addison, described the layout of his facility.

Koukoutsakis said that his shop has a lobby and a waiting area where patients can comfortably wait for the items they have ordered. It also features "very sophisticated security system."

"As you walk in there's a vestibule with bulletproof glass where you present your medical ID. Once that's scanned, and it's verified you are a patient, then you're allowed to come into the stricter area of the lobby and waiting room," he told reporters.

According to Koukoutsakis, a specialist talks to the patient, asking questions about the individual's condition and symptoms. Only after gathering these details does the specialist offer a recommendation on what strain suits best.

There are many strains available, depending on the THC and CBD content. THC is a component which gives patients a high while CBD helps lessens seizures, the Chicago Tribune says.

The report says several patients went home empty-handed as they were unable to register to a dispensary. According to the individuals turned away, they did not have enough time to register as they only received their IDs last Saturday.

Patients hope that using marijuana will reduce their dependence on prescription drugs and pain killers. A recent study concluded that states allowing the use of medical marijuana had fewer instances of death due to drug overdose and addictions as compared to states that did not legalize it.

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