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People who need medical marijuana in Illinois still face charges

Illinois has taken steps to allow state citizens safe and legal access to medical marijuana. Those with a wide range of medical conditions, such as traumatic brain injuries, cachexia, cancer, Crohn's disease, Lupus, Interstitial Cystitis, HIV/AIDS or even post traumatic stress can qualify. The law does not require that a doctor specifically recommend marijuana as medicine, as many malpractice insurance companies currently refuse to allow recommendations because of federal law. Instead, a doctor only has to provide documentation of an ongoing relationship and a debilitating condition.

As of January, 2016, the state reported that there were already more than 4,000 people signed up for the Pilot Program. More recent figures are not currently available. It is certain, however, that many more people in Illinois suffer from qualifying conditions and may be currently treating themselves with medical marijuana without participating in the state program. These people, sadly, risk fines and incarceration for seeking out their preferred medication.

State restrictions still criminalize those with medical needs

While allowing the possession and use of medical marijuana is a wonderful step forward, many people with serious, even deadly, medical conditions are still getting left behind. The state law currently does not allow for those with qualifying debilitating conditions to grow their own marijuana. The intention was likely to reduce the potential for criminal activity (such as selling excess marijuana to non-patients or an increase in robberies). The impact of this rule, however, is profound. Many people with severe medical conditions are disabled or otherwise unable to work.

Logistics

State-registered dispensaries have massive overhead to consider when pricing medical marijuana. In addition to growing or purchasing the marijuana itself, there are also permits to consider, as well as taxes, rent, insurance and staffing. Many people with severe medical conditions can not afford the prices of medical marijuana in retail shops, especially if they depend on marijuana extracts. As a result, these patients may choose to break the law by growing their own marijuana, as it could be the only way for them to receive the medical assistance from marijuana they so desperately need.

Medical marijuana patients with severe conditions may also require more than two and a half ounces every two weeks, especially those who need concentrated forms of marijuana regularly, like cancer or seizure patients. These people are breaking the state law not out of greed but out of medical necessity. Tragically, they could still have severe criminal penalties if they are discovered by law enforcement.

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