State approves 1,000 for medical pot; drug access remains months away

The number of approved medical marijuana patients in Illinois has reached about 1,000, officials announced Wednesday.

While the number remains far below initial projections, it’s a noticeable increase from 650 one month ago.

“Some people may be waiting until the product is actually available,” Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said.

That earlier number was “terrifying” for medical marijuana business owners, said Mark Passerini, president of the Illinois Cannabis Industry Association, who had said it’s not a sustainable business unless more patients sign up.

About 14,000 people have registered to begin the patient application process for medical cannabis since the state began accepting applications last fall. Of those, about 2,100 have submitted at least part of the application.

To qualify, patients must have one of about three dozen specified medical conditions, and they must fill out a written application with a doctor’s recommendation and fingerprints to pass a criminal background check.

The most commonly cited conditions initially included cancer, severe fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries, officials said.

Most of the licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana in Illinois were just issued Monday after an extensive application and vetting process. Business owners said it will take time to prepare their sites and about four months to grow the first crop.

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