CHICAGO -- The long wait for relief could be coming to an end for thousands of people who suffer from painful diseases or conditions eased by medical marijuana, as legal sales were set to begin Monday at several dispensaries across Illinois, CBS Chicago reports.
Illinois lawmakers approved legislation legalizing medical marijuana in August 2013, but the process of approving and setting up licensed cultivation centers and dispensaries delayed the implementation of the pilot program, and it wasn't until Monday that the first dispensaries were allowed to begin selling legal medical cannabis.
Illinois is one of 23 states which have passed medical marijuana legislation.
A total of eight dispensaries are opening this week, and state officials have said they expect to have about 25 dispensaries opened by the end of the year.
Illinois has approved a list of 39 diseases and conditions for which medical marijuana use is approved, including AIDS, epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and Lou Gehrig's disease.
To buy any medical marijuana, a patient must obtain a state ID card. To get the card, patients must have proof from a doctor that they have one of the qualifying diseases or conditions, and submit fingerprints and get criminal background checks -- some of the tightest restrictions of any state. As of Monday, only about 3,300 people in Illinois had obtained medical marijuana ID cards.
Chris Favela was one of the first in line at a dispensary in Addison, Illinois. He says marijuana helps some of the symptoms of his multiple sclerosis. "This soothes the muscle stiffness and makes you feel a lot better," he said.
Bill Wilson said he knows marijuana will help his chronic back pain, because he went to Colorado over the summer and tried some.
"I tried most of the edibles, because I don't enjoy smoking, but I'm going to try vaporizing, where it doesn't combust the herb, it just warms it up and allows you to take in the vapor. So it won't smell like marijuana, and I can't stand the smell of marijuana," he said.
Wilson said a degenerative disc disease forced him into early retirement because of the near constant pain.
"When you're in pain every day, it is very hard to maintain any kind of upbeat attitude. You're just, you're miserable, and it's every day of your life. It's not like, 'Oh, I have a toothache, it'll be gone tomorrow.' It's every single day, and it takes its toll on you, and the marijuana actually put me in a better mood, along with helping with the pain," he said.
Wilson said he's a card-carrying Republican who always has been anti-drug, until he found out marijuana significantly reduced his pain.
Four of the state's licensed dispensaries are located in the Chicago area, in Addison, Mundelein, North Aurora, and Schaumburg. The others are in Quincy, along the Missouri state line in west central Illinois; Marion, at the far southern tip of the state; in Canton, about 30 miles southwest of Peoria; and in Ottawa, in about 80 miles southwest of Chicago.
CBS Chicago reports the cost will run about $110 for a quarter ounce.