Marijuana dispensaries to open in Chicago and statewide

By Gretchen Sterba Metro Reporter

Medical marijuana dispensaries have opened across the state for the first time since Nov. 9 when the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program began. Among them was Dispensary 33, a medical marijuana dispensary located in the Andersonville/Uptown area at 5001 N. Clark St.

Dispensary 33, which held an open house on November 14-15, is one of many 15 dispensaries in Illinois that sells medical marijuana to people with one of 30 qualifying conditions, including cancer, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis and Tourette’s.

“We’re much more focused on the patient experience and we’re not trying to be like a doctor’s office,” said Richard Park, director of education and outreach at Dispensary 33. “It’s going to compel us to procure really high quality stuff.”

The Marijuana Policy Project announced Nov. 9 that the Illinois Department of Public Health approved Illinois’ first medical marijuana dispensaries, including others in cities Evanston, Addison, Quincy and Mundelein. At the dispensaries, patients can purchase pure cannabis or edibles like brownies, cookies or gummy bears.

MedMar INc., a dispensary in Rockford, Illinois, proposed a dispensary in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood that was rejected in February by the local Zoning Board. However, they proposed a new location in the neighborhood at 3812 N. Clark St. that was approved, according to John Sullivan, vice president of MedMar Inc.

“It’s about getting medicine to patients,” Sullivan said. “Thousands of people overdose on prescription drugs every year. There are no known deaths from overdosing on cannabis, it just doesn’t happen. In general, it’s for very sick people who need this medicine.”

Sullivan said that 60% of the people who have applied for medicine at MedMar Inc. are women more than 60 years old and the leading conditions for medical cannabis are cancer and fibromyalgia.

“Depending on what kind of condition you’re suffering from, there’s a large body of legitimate research done in various areas,” Park said. “Cannabis for movement disorder, seizure disorder, AIDS treatment—there’s a solid body of evidence for this stuff. For new patients, we’re going to recommend that you start out with small doses until you learn the effects.”

Park said that the trained medical employees at the dispensary will help patients track the medications they try and develop a profile for the patient that allows the company to tailor recommendations to them.

According to an Oct. 27 report from Procon.org, there are 2,000 medical marijuana patients in Illinois as opposed to the 146,811 patients in Michigan.

Gus Koukoutsakis, the CEO and co-owner of licesned Illinois dispensary EarthMed, said he has worked for the company for more than two years, preparing it to provide patients with medicinal cannabis.

“The amount of patients that we personally have seen come through our doors with horrible health conditions and severe illnesses are people that are spread out throughout our state, and more concentrated in the city of Chicago. The benefits they can see [from the medical marijuana] are tremendous,” said Koukoutsakis.

Koukoutsakis said doctors send patients to EarthMed to receive medical cannabis as their “only hope.”

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