Still using the established categories from this year’s Americans for Safe Access’ (ASA) report, Part 4 of this series focuses on patients’ Access to Medicine. Access to Medicine and Affordability (more in Part 5) are two of Illinois’ lowest scoring categories. The ASA’s report scored Illinois’ Access to Medicine at 45/100. So in Part 4 of this series, we highlight Access to Medicine, a category that garners from patients weekly comments, complaints, and concerns.
Access to Medicine
In the sub-categories of Access to Medicine, Illinois recorded perfect scores in the ASA report on Authorizes Retail Access (10/10) and Personal Cultivation (15/15). Illinois failed to register any scores in Authorizes Delivery (delivery and curbside pickup) and also scored poorly in Collective Gardening, Sufficient Number of Licensed Retailers, and Reciprocity.
Illinois medical patients have shown most concerns about Sufficient Number of Licensed Retailers, especially in the earliest days of adult-use legalization. Many patients feel Illinois does not have a sufficient number of dispensaries operating to meet patient demand. We often hear about patients who have to drive an hour or two to a medical dispensary, because Illinois just does not have enough medical dispensaries throughout the state, especially in southern Illinois. Despite nearly 200 newly licensed recreational dispensaries poised to open next year and beyond, Illinois has been stuck on 55 currently open medical dispensary locations for more than three years with no plans to add more in the near future.
Before some of the new licensed dispensary openings, Illinois had one dispensary per 115,000 residents, which is one store per 2,482 patients. In rural central and southern Illinois especially, the nearest medical dispensary can be far enough away patients have to take half a day or more out of their schedule to pick up medicine. Illinois offers no delivery service from dispensaries or third parties, and after January 1, 2023, dispensaries will stop the curbside pickup that had been allowed during the pandemic. According to a recent statement by the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, “Beginning January 1, 2023, the variance that permits medical cannabis dispensaries to store and dispense all cannabis from the restricted area will expire. This means that as of January 1, 2023, all patients and caregivers will be required to pick up and purchase all cannabis products inside the dispensary.”
The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act states that dispensaries must have “adequate supply” for qualifying patients and “shall prioritize serving qualifying patients.” But patients, especially those in central and southern Illinois where they have one choice for a dispensary, have had difficulty finding medical products because that one dispensary may not stock the patients’ favorite cultivators, specific strains, or products that do not sell as well to the recreational market.
The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act states, “A dispensing organization holding a medical cannabis dispensing organization license issued under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program Act must maintain an adequate supply of cannabis and cannabis-infused products for purchase by qualifying patients, caregivers, provisional patients, and Opioid Alternative Pilot Program participants. For the purposes of this subsection, ‘adequate supply’ means a monthly inventory level that is comparable in type and quantity to those medical cannabis products provided to patients and caregivers on an average monthly basis for the 6 months before the effective date of this Act.” The following paragraph in the law states, “If there is a shortage of cannabis or cannabis-infused products, a dispensing organization holding both a dispensing organization license under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program Act and this Act shall prioritize serving qualifying patients, caregivers, provisional patients, and Opioid Alternative Pilot Program participants before serving purchasers.”
Despite those proclamations in the law, medical patients, especially those with access to one dispensary, often convey difficulty finding lower-profile cannabis products, such as RSOs, edibles, pain-relief patches, lotions, suppositories, THC/CBD ratio products, products for diabetics, and more. Many of these medical products are either out of supply or have been taken off the menu altogether. We suggest to patients who, for example, consistently purchases RSO to contact the dispensary to let the dispensary representatives know about the specific product need. Most medical dispensary representatives, if possible, will try to accommodate.
Illinois has added one benefit of note to Access to Medicine. Instead of renewing a medical card for 1-3 years at a time, patients with lifelong conditions can now renew medical cards for a lifetime. This benefit should be offered to all interested medical patients.
In Part 5 of the series, we highlight the “Affordability” of medicine for patients in Illinois. For more Illinois cannabis industry news, visit here. For Medical Patient Homegrown Reviews, visit here. To learn about cannabis-friendly events in Illinois, visit here.
For the rest of the articles in the series find the links below:
For Medical Patient Homegrown Reviews, visit here.
For more Illinois cannabis industry news, visit here.
To learn about cannabis-friendly events in Illinois, visit here.