The number of people approved to use medical marijuana in Illinois remains too low to sustain the industry, business owners said.
Only about 100 more patients have been cleared in the past month to access medical pot, raising the statewide total to about 2,600, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Wednesday.
Illinois Department of Public Health accepting petitions July 1, 2015, for addition of diseases to medical marijuana pilot program list.
About 22,600 people have signed up on the state's website to obtain medical marijuana, but only 3,200 have completed the application. The state law requires patients to submit fingerprints for criminal background checks and to get a doctor's recommendation, which some patients say has been difficult.
The low number of approved users remains the greatest concern for growers and dispensary owners, said Joseph Friedman, who plans to open a dispensary in Buffalo Grove and is a board member of the Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois, a trade group that represents some of the state's license holders.
"We all have concerns about it," he said. "It's one of our top priorities, to increase the patient count."
It's only a matter of time before all people will be allowed to buy, to much money from connected pols is now involved. I for one will not give up my fingerprints or my precious bodily fluids just to get something I can get anywhere, for less money.
Industry consultant Michael Mayes of Quantum 9 in Chicago agreed that the paltry numbers are a major problem, but he said it's hoped that they will rise significantly once the drug is available for purchase. After a series of delays, the product is now expected to be ready by October or November.
"It's slow going," Mayes said. He estimated it would take at least 100,000 patients to sustain the market.
To do that, business owners hope the state health department will further expand its list of more than 40 conditions that can qualify someone to obtain medical marijuana, including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and spinal cord injuries. In May, an advisory panel recommended adding 11 conditions to the list, including osteoarthritis and migraine headaches, and state health officials are considering those.
Business owners say they are spending millions of dollars to build up to 21 cultivation centers and are getting ready to grow the first crop.