ILLINOIS -- Thousands in the state want medical marijuana. Since Tuesday, more than 2,000 people have started the application process to register for a medical cannabis ID card. Qualifying patients whose last name begins with A - L have until October 31 to submit an application.
ILLINOIS -- Tuesday is the first day for some people to turn in a medical marijuana application. It's for those whose last name starts with A - L. WCIA-3's Kelsey Gibbs keeps us Connected to the Capitol.
Steven McClure says he's living with pain, but fears he could have to wait longer than most to get approved for the drug.
"When I heard about the compassion law, I looked for it, but couldn't find it online anywhere. The doctors were non-cooperative."
McClure will have to wait to get on the list to use medical marijuana. He suffers from COPD, sleep apnea and other illnesses.
"My lungs are shocked. I have a vaporizer that I use instead and I also use the edibles."
Besides having to wait to register because of his last name, McClure is petitioning his doctor to get his condition on the list.
"As far as the compassion law, they never heard of it, they wouldn't approve it. It's just policy with them."
He can't just get a new doctor. The new law requires McClure to have a "bone fide physician-patient relationship," but that doesn't stop him from getting high. He's been using marijuana illegally for decades to help him get through the pain; at one point, being charged with drug possession.
"I use it for pain. I've been using it, I've been using marijuana for 40 years. It's never hurt me before and I don't believe it's going to hurt me again."
But, McClure says he is still confused with the process of the new law. He says he would like to use medical marijuana the legal way.
"I'm attempting to get a new doctor now at SIU, but then again, it doesn't fall in with you to have to have a history with this doctor."
If he's approved, McClure and others with last names starting with M - Z will be able to register November 1 - December 31. IDPH has 30 days to review applications. Approval letters will be mailed 15 days after the review.
CHAMPAIGN -- A milestone for medical marijuana in the state of Illinois: soon patients will be able to apply to use it legally. Starting Tuesday, patients with qualifying conditions can begin the application process.
Not everyone will be able to apply at once. The Illinois Department of Health expects a lot of people to sign up, so they split the application process up. Those whose last name starts with A-through-L will be able to start applying Tuesday.
Claudia Lennhoff is with Champaign County Health Care Consumers. The organization has been watching the medical cannabis law unfold. They see the step of patients getting ID cards as a significant one.
"Now that medical cannabis is going to be made available, patients who have a variety of kinds of conditions are now going to have more options for treatment," said Lennhoff.
The department has 30 days to review an application. If approved, a patient will get an ID card within 15 days. It’ll cost qualifying patients $100 a year, $50 for those who meet the requirements to get it cheaper.
Lennhoff says the fee is expensive and the process is tougher here than in other states.
"Illinois has one of the most restrictive medical cannabis laws in the country and we're excited that Illinois has passed this law and is starting to implement it, but we really hope that over time it will become less restrictive,” she said.
When people sign up, they’ll do it on the Department of Health’s website. They have a list of qualifying medical conditions, including cancer, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Tourette’s syndrome.
"That the medical cannabis will become more accessible to patients with larger varieties of health conditions," said Lennhoff.
Those with last names M - Z will be able to apply starting in November. At the beginning of 2015, everyone will be able to apply.
Patients may not actually be able to get medical marijuana before next year. There's still another week before dispensaries and growing centers will even be able to apply. Officials say it takes time to choose the companies, build facilities and grow the marijuana.
Applications can be found at the Department of Health's website. For more information, click here.
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