Illinois has one of the most restrictive medical marijuana programs in the nation. The list of qualifying conditions is short compared to many other states, and even if a patient can qualify, there will be no way to obtain medical marijuana until licensed growers are established and a limited number of dispensaries are in place. To make matters worse, patients are having a very hard time finding a doctor that will approve them as medical marijuana patients. Per WREX:
Area doctors say lack of research in the region is making them hesitant to approve marijuana prescriptions.
That means many of the epilepsy foundation's clients won't be able to start treatment by the start of 2015.
"They quit calling back because I keep saying we haven't found anyone yet, we are working on it. But I get calls everyday. So far, I have not found any doctors who will prescribe," Epilepsy Foundation Director of Client Services, Barbara Vern-Lau said.
There are issues on rolling out business licenses for growers and dispensaries too. A goal was in place to have licenses issued by the end of 2014, but that goal deadline passed, and Illinois' Governor is not providing any explanation for the delays. Per the News Observer:
Without explanation, Gov. Pat Quinn's administration has conceded it missed its end-of-the-year target for deciding which businesses will receive permits to begin the state's pilot program with medical marijuana. Some observers think the decision could come in a matter of days.
The lag will force cultivation center owners to break ground during the coldest winter months, and, ultimately, delay harvest of the first cannabis crop. Patients who've paid $100 for marijuana registry cards will have to wait, perhaps until summer or beyond, before they can legally use the drug. Some patients say they'll continue to use pot they've obtained on the black market.
The issues being experience in Illinois remind me of the issues that faced New Jersey's medical marijuana program. Leery doctors and a lot of license foot dragging, combined with an already restrictive program, is not good news for patients in Illinois, or those that are trying to get in on the industry side of things in Illinois. I talked to an investor recently that has spend a tremendous amount of time and money trying to obtain a cultivation license in Illinois, and he expressed quite a bit of frustration with the process. I'd imagine delays in announcing licenses can only add to that frustration.