Illinois and California have approached medical marijuana legalization in very different ways twenty years apart.
In California, as the National Pain Report wrote earlier this month, Governor Brown signed bills that more tightly regulated an industry that some called the “Wild West”.
California is changing some of the regulations that were put into place almost 20 years ago. For instance, the new law includes limits on the number of licenses that are available. California will also start mandating testing marijuana products for cannabinoid content and contaminants, which is another significant improvement. In California, medical marijuana dispensaries seemingly popped up everywhere.
In Illinois, where the use of medical marijuana is just beginning, it’s much different. In fact, the rollout is so limited, that access to it is still going to be a challenge.
Illinois officials are alerting patients that they must choose a dispensary where they will buy medical marijuana, but only a few shops are ready.
The Department of Public Health started mailing letters last week to the program’s 3,100 patients. The letter says cannabis ID cards will be mailed at the end of October. It says patients must designate a state-licensed dispensary before they can buy marijuana legally. Patients can make the designation by email, fax or mail.
Patients will be able to change dispensaries later. Or they can wait until a dispensary is licensed near them before making their pick.
A constant theme about medical marijuana is the lack of science in the United States about the efficacy of marijuana for any number of physical maladies, including chronic pain. In Canada, researchers at McGill University reported this month that Medical marijuana appears mostly safe for treating chronic pain, at least among people with some experience using the drug. While the trial was about safety, it also found that people reported more relief from their chronic pain.
It’s too bad more scientific information isn’t available is the U.S. In the Huffington Post, Dr. David Casarett writes that he thinks California missed an opportunity to collect data about both the benefits and long-term risks of using medical marijuana.
“In that state alone, there may be more than 500,000 people using medical marijuana. It’s a shame to think that we’re not letting patients report their experiences, both good and bad,” he wrote.
The politics of marijuana are certainly moving toward a wider acceptance of it both for medical and recreational use. A number of states will have voter referendums in the next year to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The first of those votes will occur in Ohio in November, 2015.
If it’s approved, anyone 21 years or older with a license purchased from the Ohio Marijuana Control Commission, similar to a fishing license, could use, possess, grow, cultivate and share up to eight ounces of homegrown marijuana and four flowering marijuana plants. Anyone with a certified debilitating medical condition could use medicinal marijuana.