David Downs, Marijuana Policy Project, Washington D.C.
Medicinal marijuana will come in many forms, like single drop tinctures (shown), topical creams, edibles and plant form.
The proposed Illinois medical marijuana program is not what you think it is. Lawmakers, policy experts, patients and advocates joined together to create legislation, although restrictive, that allows residents safe and legal access to medical marijuana. The four-year Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program will be self-sustained – not generating any revenue.
“We want the best marijuana program in the nation,” said Mike Graham, an Illinois resident who uses medicinal marijuana to treat severe pain caused by a degenerative disc disorder. “The way the bill is set up, we want a clear black and white picture of what the program is.”
Graham said that marijuana, which is still illegal in Illinois, gave him a better quality of life and while he advocates its use, he wants a tightly controlled program so the drug doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
“We don’t want this getting to kids on the playground,” said Graham. “We just want to sick people to have safe afford access to a product that improves quality of life.”
Unlike the big, first state program in California, which generates $100 million in tax revenue, Illinois will have a self-sustaining program, tightly regulated by the state with dispensary fees and a sales tax designed to simply cover all state costs. Unlike Colorado’s program that allows its patients to qualify for usage with the broad condition of “chronic pain,” Illinois legislation does not accept chronic pain as qualifying for use. Unlike Alaska, Delaware, Maine, Michigan and Rhode Island, which recognize patients from other states, Illinois will not.
“When you start looking at some of the specifics of the bill you see that it’s really wildly different from what California and Colorado and some of other states out West are doing,” said Dan Riffle, deputy director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, a national marijuana advocate group.
Dr. Burak Emin Gezen, an internist in downtown Chicago, has a few patients who currently use marijuana, illegally, to alleviate pain. He thinks it’s an underutilized and undervalued treatment.
“If it’s legal and we start using it more, I think I’ll have a lot more patients who will be getting benefits from it, there’s no question about that,” said Gezen.