Illinois' medical marijuana industry getting something it desperately needs: more patients

It is likely Illinois legislators will adjourn their spring session later this week having failed for the second straight year to enact a balanced budget.

Governor Rauner and Democratic leaders, though, did agree to extend Illinois' troubled medical marijuana program, and they're also adding two new medical conditions to a list of those that can be treated with cannabis.

The deal gives the struggling medical marijuana industry in Illinois something it desperately needs: more patients.

“We know this program can work,” said Paul Lee of Dispensary 33.

Since Lee's Dispensary 33 opened last December, it's faced the same problem plaguing every purveyor of medical marijuana in Illinois. Barely 6,200 patients have completed the fingerprinting and background checking needed before they may legally buy cannabis. Hence the excitement that Gov. Rauner is now willing to let the program add thousands of potential new patients: those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and those whose doctors say they may live only six months or less.

“We definitely think it's a very good idea to expand the program. And we feel that a lot of different people need more access,” Lee said.

Written into Senate Bill 10, the deal extends the temporary Medical Cannabis program's expiration date until July 1, 2020, instead of the end of next year.

Doctors no longer must "recommend" cannabis as a treatment, only that the patient has a qualifying medical condition.

Patient ID cards will be valid 3 years, not just one, and will not have to be fingerprinted when renewing.

“If the people are sick and they really need it for health reasons, I don't see anything wrong with that,” said Maurice Savage of Chicago.

“Yes, good idea. I support medical marijuana,” said Kemi Oritsejafor.

The medical marijuana industry gets one more thing in this deal that it really, really wanted. The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board will be reconstituted. The industry complained the board blocked every request to expand the list of conditions eligible to be treated with marijuana.