Illinois has a lot more medical marijuana users than it expected. On Friday, the state announced more than 2,000 people registered for Illinois medical marijuana identification cards in the first three days of applications.
The state started taking electronic applications Tuesday from patients whose last names started with letters A through L. Those people are eligible to register through October 31. Officials had expected just a few hundred applications in the opening days. Others can apply in November and December, and any patients and caregivers can apply starting next year. Patients must have a written certification from a doctor and get a background check, then pay $100 a year to apply for a medical marijuana card. Disabled people and veterans will pay $50 annually.
A spokeswoman for the state health department said that although registrations in the application period were “obviously higher” than forecast, “it’s not something we can’t handle.”
She said, “The system is working well. It’s always difficult to speculate and estimate how many are going to apply. Hundreds of thousands (of Illinoisans) are eligible for medical cannabis cards with debilitating conditions.”
Bob Morgan is the chief of the state’s medical cannabis pilot program. He said, “This is a promising sign that the program is on track to fulfill its key purpose — alleviating the pain and suffering for thousands of Illinoisans.”
A state law was enacted last year in Illinois that authorized a four-year pilot project, but as of yet, not a single marijuana seed has been planted. State officials have said the first products may be sold next year. On Monday, the state will begin to accept applications from cultivation centers and dispensaries who will compete for one of a limited number of permits.
Once the marijuana is made available, patients will be able to buy up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in a two-week period from a state-authorized dispensary. In order to do so, they will have to be diagnosed with one of the qualifying medical conditions listed in the Illinois law, which include cancer, glaucoma, HIV, hepatitis C and dozens of other health problems.