By Jim Hagerty
The Illinois Department of Public Health has sent out about a dozen approval letters to medical marijuana patients and expects its workload to increase in coming weeks.
The department is working on applications from patients whose last names begin with A through L. That has represented as much as officials can handle at the moment.
“We’ve received thousands of applications from people who have started the process,” Department of Public Health Spokesman Melaney Arnold said.
Patients whose names begin with M through Z have been asked to wait until Nov. 1 to apply.
To qualify for a medical cannabis card, patients must submit to a background check and have a written prescription from a doctor to treat a long list of medical issues. Patients must also pay $100 per year. Veterans and disabled patients pay a $50 fee.
Because of the high volume of applications, the numbers of cannabis patients per region haven’t been released. What the department has confirmed is that patients from across Illinois have already applied to treat a variety of conditions. Demographic statistics will be released Oct. 8.
“We are focusing on the applications right now, because we are expecting thousands more to come in from across the state,” Arnold said.
Patients must apply for a medical cannabis permit through the state health department. Locally, the Winnebago County Health Department is playing a limited role in the application process, but did experience a wave of inquiries when medical marijuana was approved last year and went into effect this January.
“We received a lot of phone calls in the beginning,” said Sue Fuller, Winnebago County Health Department public information officer. “We are referring callers to the state’s website. We also have the state’s information on our site. Everything goes through the state.”
Under Illinois’ medical marijuana program, the list of qualifying medical conditions include, but are not limited to, ALS, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, spinal cord diseases, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, cystic conditions, rheumatoid arthritis and various neurological problems.
The state has also processed more than 350 applications from businesses seeking to serve as legal marijuana operations. More than 150 have applied to grow medical cannabis, while 211 have applied to dispense it. Illinois-grown medical marijuana is expected to be available next year through 81 licensed companies.
From the Oct. 1-7, 2014, issue