Medical Marijuana Conference kicks off in Chicago

What if you passed a medical marijuana law, but nobody smoked?

Investors who spent millions getting licensed in Illinois to grow and sell medical marijuana are now starting to worry.

You can find just about anything related to cannabis – medical or not – at the Medical Marijuana Conference that kicked off Thursday in Chicago and goes through the weekend.

For example, pipes, vaporizers, grinders, grow lights, fertilizer, and even a hand burled walnut joint protector.

"They're smellproof, waterproof, they float, made in America and carry a lifetime guarantee," said Mark Wein of Mama P’s Wholesale Grinding Co.

But the one thing you do have trouble finding at the medical marijuana conference is customers.

"The people that have all the money on the table, that are investing to open up the dispensaries, they're at risk right now. And yes, they're sweating. Because we only have like 26-hundred patients," said medical marijuana advocate Patty Schuler.

Nearly a year after the state began taking applications; only 2,600 people have been approved to receive cannabis cards allowing them to use medical marijuana in Illinois. That is far short of the 100,000 experts had predicted.

Part of the problem is it's taking so long to get the program started.
"The slowness in the process last year may have turned off some people into thinking, well, is this program ever going to really launch?" said Brad Zerman of Seven Point Dispensary.

Zernan has spent close to a half million dollars building a dispensary that will be located in an Oak Park building. He said they'll be open for business by October, and that should prompt more people to get approved for medical pot.

"Once these dispensaries start opening and there's more press about the activities and the growers actually farming and creating edibles and oils, everybody's gonna get excited and the state's just gonna get backlogged," Zerman added.

But others worry the state has created a thicket of rules and regulations that are discouraging people who might qualify, as well as the doctors who need to prescribe it.

For instance, all applicants must be fingerprinted, which advocates say treats law-abiding people with illnesses like criminals.

"They're asking too much of the people. If they're going to give this to the people as an alternative, I think they should treat it that way and open it up for the patients," Schuler said.