A chill wind is blowing in the Windy City and it's not a wintery blast from Lake Michigan. It's the cold freeze of an industry without any customers.
In New York, the strict rules for qualification into the program have inhibited participation, too.
From December 23rd until January 7th, the New York program approved only 53 patients for the program. By January 16th it was up to 165.
There are eight dispensaries open across the entire state.
Although the inception of any program involves a gradual increase in participation, this is far more gradual than expected, prompting the Associated Press to declare the program's launch a "Slow start".
The problem with the New York program includes the limited types of the marijuana medicines they allow (non-smoked forms only), the nature of the illnesses that would qualify one for participation (far fewer than other states), and the degree of complexity in the patient certification process (stiff requirements).
New York requires physicians to be trained to qualify for medical marijuana certifications. This additional step in the process does not seem to be inhibiting the program's growth, as more than 225 physicians have met the state requirements.
Illinois took a very long time to develop their medical marijuana program. When dispensaries opened and the program launched in November of 2015 there were 4,000 patients registered with the program. Only 400 more registered in December.
There are 22 dispensaries licensed to operate across Illinois, and another 14 may join them by spring. Articles are springing up with titles like, "Low Patient Numbers Could Doom Illinois' Medical Marijuana Industry" and "Medical marijuana shops: We need more customers".
Illinois inhibits participation by restricting the nature of the ailments that qualify a patient for program entry. Most state medical marijuana programs allow for chronic pain or persistent muscle spasms as a qualifying condition, as well as other named ailments and illnesses. Using generalized diagnoses gives physicians the latitude to use their professional discretion in determining who may benefit from the use of medicinal cannabis.
Illinois allows people suffering from only certain named ailments to participate in their medical marijuana program, a fact frequently cited as a reason for the program's low enrollment.
A proposal to add 8 illnesses to that list was approved by the state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board and the final decision rests with the Director of the Department of Public Health. Those illnesses include autism, chronic pain syndrome, chronic post-operative pain, chronic pain due to trauma, intractable pain, irritable bowel syndrome, osteoarthritis, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The deadline for a decision is February 1, 2016.
As seen in Michigan with the failed effort to add autism to their medical marijuana program, approval by a knowledgeable board of physicians does not automatically mean approval by a non-medical bureaucrat.
Michigan's medical marijuana program has 182,091 patient participants and 34,269 caregivers, and began accepting registrations in 2009. Michigan has fewer residents than either New York or Illinois.
Source: The Compassion Chronicles