Written by By Joe Boyle
Worth Mayor Mary Werner said that the addition of the medical marijuana dispensary in the village has been a positive one.
Now her main concern is will the facility remain open?
Werner addressed those concerns during the Chicago Ridge Worth Chamber of Commerce luncheon held recently. Werner told the crowd that Windy City Cannabis, 11425 S. Harlem Ave., officially opened its doors in January. Structural repairs had to be made in November and December to the building, which was a former children’s clothing store.
The dispensary became a reality after two years of discussions and meetings with residents to alleviate their fears about the business. Speculation ranged from the building attracting drug addicts and increasing crime in the area.
Those concerns were put to rest through a series of meetings that were held. The medicinal marijuana is designed to alleviate pain that patients have from a variety of ailments. Illinois law has 39 conditions and diseases that already qualify for medicinal marijuana use with a doctor’s signature. Cancer, glaucoma, HIV, hepatitis C and multiple sclerosis already qualifies.
Werner was confident that the dispensary will be a success. However, some reports indicated that some of the dispensaries that recently opened are lacking patients. The reason for that is that some diseases do not qualify under Illinois law for medicinal marijuana, some officials point out.
Werner agrees with that assessment. She believes that due to the tight restrictions Illinois has implemented on disallowing medicinal marijuana prescriptions for some specific aliments has hampered the Worth facility.
The conditions recommended by the advisory board that were rejected last year were anorexia nervosa, chronic post-operative pain, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine, Neuro-Behcet's autoimmune disease, neuropathy, osteoarthritis, polycystic kidney disease, PTSD and superior canal dehiscence syndrome.
Right now, there are not enough people to support it, Werner said.
“Only 5,000 people are signed up for medical marijuana and the medical dispensary developers were hoping for 10,000 people,” said Werner.
Werner said she has called Gov. Bruce Rauner. She is still waiting for a return call.
Rauner’s administration has also rejected osteoarthritis, migraine and post-traumatic stress disorder. The moves appeared to be a complete rejection of the proposals by former Gov. Pat Quinn, who Rauner defeated in 2014.
Steve Weismann, CEO of Windy City Cannabis, said from his perspective the program has been a success. Besides Worth, Weismann has Windy City Cannabis facilities in Homewood, Justice and Posen. He visits each of the dispensaries each week and sometimes drops in at all four locations in a day. He is encouraged by the responses he has received.
“The people who come in there are incredibly grateful,” said Weismann. “They tell us all the time. So, from the standpoint, we have been very successful. From a financial standpoint, no not at all. Why the governor wants to restrict someone from having pain alleviated is beyond me.”
In Illinois, the advisory board that has been restructured by Rauner is made up of physicians, nurses and patients. Last fall, Rauner vetoed an extension to the four-year pilot program, stating he would approve continuing it only through April 2018. At that time, the governor said he wants to evaluate it.
And that concerns Werner and Weisman, who believe Rauner may be setting the program up to fail by restricting what ailments can be treated with medicinal marijuana.
Weisman was asked if more can be done to publicize that the facilities are open.
“I think there is a little public awareness issue,” Weisman said. “Some doctors have been hesitant to come on board. I don’t know why.”
Patients must get a signed certification from a doctor as part of the application process to use medical marijuana in Illinois.
But Weisman said if critics gave the program a chance, they would have a different opinion.
“Incredibly, we have had people cry because their pain has been alleviated,” said Weisman. “We have had one our patients, a quadriplegic, who can now wiggle his toes for the first time. This is not a cure but it makes people feel better.”
Illinois is the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana, although the drug remains illegal under federal law. More information can be obtained at WindyCityCannabis.com