Medical marijuana to be sold legally in suburbs 'very shortly'

  • Pharmacist Joseph Friedman of Lincolnshire plans to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Buffalo Grove soon.

    Pharmacist Joseph Friedman of Lincolnshire plans to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Buffalo Grove soon. George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

Updated 10/23/2015 5:06 AM

More than two years after lawmakers approved the landmark law, sales of medical marijuana to sick Illinoisans will begin "very shortly," the program's director says.

So far, the state has licensed just four dispensaries, including one in Mundelein, that could start selling medical cannabis once they receive legal, Illinois-grown marijuana. Joseph Wright, director of Illinois' program, says the state will give the go-ahead in the middle of the fourth quarter of the year. In other words, within a few weeks. The Clinic Mundelein, on its Facebook page, said it expects to start selling during the first week of November, "if the state allows."


"A total of approximately 12 to 15 dispensaries should be registered by the end of November," Wright said. "(Eight) or 9 of those will be located in the Chicagoland area."

The state has generally limited how many dispensaries can open in a region. For example, three can open in DuPage County. In suburban Cook County, dispensaries are allotted to sets of townships.

By the time the medical marijuana finally goes on sale, Illinois will be nearly halfway through its four-year pilot program. Gov. Bruce Rauner this year vetoed a plan to extend it, so it's unclear whether medical marijuana here will be a brief experiment or a lasting industry.

The next wave

Pharmacist Joseph Friedman of Lincolnshire is preparing to open his dispensary in Buffalo Grove, maybe in early December. His company, PDI Medical, has its final state inspection Nov. 24.

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With the Mundelein dispensary on track to open earlier, Friedman's company is hoping to build a client base with an event in Deerfield Saturday to help people learn more about medical marijuana in Illinois. Wright says about 3,100 patients in Illinois have been approved to use the drug legally so far.

Have the delays in the program been frustrating? Friedman says it's a tough thing for the state to get right.

"I don't see how something like this could take any less time," he said.

Getting comfortable

Friedman said part of having a successful dispensary will mean helping new customers be comfortable walking into a store to buy a drug that's been illegal for decades. He said he doesn't plan to emulate Colorado dispensaries geared toward recreational users that can feel intimidating.

"It doesn't really deliver a health care feeling," he said.

In Illinois, patients need a doctor's approval and must have a disease that's on an approved list before they can buy marijuana legally.


Out in the open?

State Sen. Julie Morrison has proposed a way to break the Springfield budget logjam: If lawmakers pass a deadline without a complete budget in place, the governor and top lawmakers must meet for an hour per week, in public, until it's worked out.

It's a variant of the ongoing calls by some lawmakers to keep the legislature in Springfield until the more than 100-day war over state spending is resolved.

Would a weekly meeting of top politicians be a sort of public shaming?

"It's only a shaming if that's what the leaders decide to make it," the Deerfield Democrat said. "It could be a very productive meeting with other legislative members present. Or it could be an opportunity for the public to see what impasse really looks like."

The idea is far from becoming law. Some of the leaders who would have to be in that meeting would have to approve before it goes forward.

Another go

Two suburban Republican challengers confirm they'll take another shot at seats in the Illinois House after unsuccessful campaigns in 2014.

Rod Drobinski, a prosecutor in the Lake County state's attorney office, will run again against Democratic state Rep. Sam Yingling of Grayslake, he said.

And Republican Heidi Holan of Glen Ellyn says she'll run again against Democratic Rep. Deb Conroy of Villa Park.

Both Democrats defended their seats in 2014 at a time when Republican Rauner did very well in the suburbs. The ongoing budget impasse adds another element to that dynamic, of course, for almost any candidate on the ballot.

Next year

A few weeks ago, state Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, said in this column it is "sobering" to consider the Cubs could win a World Series before Illinois has a full budget in place.

The Mets' victory makes that pretty unlikely now, although many observers think Illinoisans are going to have to wait until next year for both.

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