Nearly two full years after Illinois voted to implement a medical cannabis program, November 9th, 2015 marks the first day that approved patients can legally purchase cannabis products in the Land of Lincoln.

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Just last week, state officials gave licensed cannabis businesses the green light to begin shipping and distributing medical cannabis products. Illinois, like many states exploring medical cannabis programs, is still trying to determine the most productive methods of licensing and regulating cannabis sales to sick patients.

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Illinois has approved a limited number of conditions (39 total: ILCS 130/10.H.1) for which a patient can receive a cannabis recommendation.

On October 7th of this year, the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board recommended an additional eight conditions that should be added to the list of conditions approved to be treated with medical cannabis: chronic pain due to trauma, chronic pain syndrome, chronic post-operative pain, intractable pain, osteoarthritis, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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There are an estimated 3,300 registered cannabis patients in the state of Illinois, all of whom are expected to obtain medicine from a limited number of licensed dispensaries. There are currently nine licensed dispensaries throughout Illinois, but Joseph Wright, Director of the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, expects somewhere between 20 and 25 dispensary stop be licensed by the end of the year.

Here is a list of the current cannabis dispensaries open for business in Illinois:

One of the interesting aspects about the Illinois medical cannabis program is the strict registration milestones imposed on patients. Registered patients can visit any of the medical dispensaries in Illinois, but they must register their medical identification number online with a primary cannabis location.

Many patients were not aware of this stipulation, and were denied access when they tried to access medical dispensaries today. Cards were sent out on Oct, 30th, and online registration can take over 24 hours to complete.

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Despite a few hiccups which are almost guaranteed in the cannabis industry, Illinois seems to be on the right track to implementing a regulated medical program for sick patients hoping to use cannabis. Safe access to medicine is the foundation behind the cannabis legalization movement, and every state that activates a sensible medical cannabis program is one step closer to hosting responsible drug policies.

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