Ottawa’s medical marijuana dispensary could see an increase in patients as Illinois begins rolling out a program as an alternative to opioids.
Anna Johnson, PharmaCannis’ general manager, said the dispensary located at 4104 Columbus St. is already preparing for a large number of new visitors.
“We’re expecting a large flood of new patients. It’s opening up a whole other group of patients that now have a qualifying condition,” Johnson said. “It’s definitely going to make a huge difference and we’re gearing up for that by beefing up our staff and through outreach to doctors.”
The Associated Press is reporting other medical marijuana dispensaries in the state are doing the same as the Illinois Department of Public Health’s new program will allow medical marijuana to be used in place of prescription painkillers. The program was signed into law by former Gov. Bruce Rauner in August and goes live on Thursday, Jan. 31. Patients previously had to have one of about 40 conditions, including cancer or AIDS, to qualify for medical marijuana.
Johnson estimated the dispensary has between 600 and 700 patients and is expecting that number to potentially double as a result of the new program.
Those with an opiate prescription will need to go to a certified doctor who will fill out a form with the state to switch to medical marijuana. Patients will be expected to pay a $10 fee for an application that will be emailed to them and eliminates a usual three-month waiting period to apply for a medical card.
Patients will then need to see a doctor every 90 days to renew their certification for medical marijuana.
Johnson said medical marijuana’s use as an alternative has been in the works for awhile due to some concerns with the ongoing opioid crisis.
“We’ve seen unbelievable results for patients who are previous opioid users. It has been life-changing,” Johnson said.
She added some felt better physically and “more in touch with reality,” which others have been able to return to work when previously feeling “paralyzed” from opioid use.
Johnson added there will always be a use for opioids, but medical marijuana may be a healthy alternative for others.
PharmaCannis opened a dispensary in Ottawa in October 2015 when the state first began allowing legal purchase of medical marijuana.
A majority of local patients tend to be older compared to a more younger-base in the suburbs. The nearest two dispensaries are in Morris and Bloomington, according to Johnson.
She added business continues to steadily increase.
"It's slowly grown over the past three years," Johnson said. "There wasn't the huge uptick the state was expecting at the very beginning but it has steadily grown over the last three years."