CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - FOX 32 has learned that Illinois' first legal shipments of medical marijuana could depart from grow houses as soon as Friday.
The man in charge of the state's program told FOX 32 News that the first legal retail sales by dispensaries could come early next week, perhaps Monday. But a woman who worked tirelessly for years to legalize medical marijuana in Illinois is turning her back on the program.
Julie Falco has painful, incurable multiple sclerosis. Back when she could still walk, she was well known in the State Capitol as a tireless proponent of medical marijuana. But now with the program at the tipping point, she says she won't be part of it.
“Still feel like a criminal because I'm getting fingerprinted. Even though I use a wheelchair. I'm on a walker. I can barely move during the day,” Falco said.
Her multiple sclerosis is now so far advanced that if Falco falls in the apartment where she lives by herself, she has to call 9-1-1 to be picked up off the floor. She takes cannabis oils and tinctures to ease her symptoms and pain. She complained it was far easier for her to get a firearm owner's ID last year than to apply for a medical marijuana card this year.
“This makes no sense!” said Falco.
Falco said she actually did try to join Illinois' Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, but encountered one obstacle after another. The State requires a patient or caregiver to pick up the pot in person. Since it's very difficult for Falco to leave her North Side apartment, a friend with a less serious disease volunteered to do it for her. But since he's already registered as a patient, Falco said the state refused to let him also register as her caregiver to pick up her medical cannabis.
Ross Morreale works for Ataraxia, a certified marijuana grower in Southern Illinois that's ready to ship whimsical brand names of pot, including Ghost Train Haze and White Harmony. He's concerned that Falco's experience may be why Illinois has so far enrolled only 3,300 patients.
“I'm hopeful that once patients realize that this is real and that you can actually go to a dispensary and that you can actually purchase medicine there, that the patient numbers will increase,” Morreale said.
FOX 32: You're getting the medical marijuana?
“Right now I'm still getting what I need,” Falco said.
FOX 32: You don't need the card?
“At this time, no,” she resonded.
The man who runs Illinois' medical cannabis program told FOX 32 that some pot growers may put their first shipments on the road as soon as Friday. The state's high-tech system for tracking them is now operational. He said "early next week,” maybe Monday, we'll see the first sales to patients by some of the 55 authorized dispensaries.
There are only 3,300 patients registered. How many does the industry need to cover its costs? Morreale said 35,000 to 40,000. A trade association estimates a quarter-billion dollars has been invested in Illinois’ medical pot.
Director of the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, Joseph Wright, told FOX 32 the following:
"The fingerprint requirement comes from the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. "Each person applying as a qualifying patient or a designated caregiver shall submit a full set of fingerprints to the Department of State Police for the purpose of obtaining a State and federal criminal records check." 410 ILCS 130/65(d)."