Medical marijuana in Illinois; a first look inside a cultivation site and a dispensary

Half of states and the District of Columbia are now on board with medical marijuana. And nine states have marijuana issues on the November ballot.  Since the first sales last November 9th, total retail sales in Illinois topped 23.5 million dollars last month. There are now more than 11,000 medical marijuana card holders in Illinois. And 44 dispensaries have been licensed to sell the home grown marijuana products.

Who are these pioneers, and what does the cannabis business look like in Illinois? One year after the first sales, the state is taking the wraps off dispensaries and cultivation sites.

WGN’s Steve Sanders and crew were among the first to enter.

Some marijuana plants contain very high levels of the psychoactive ingredient THC, and others just trace amounts so kids can use it.  Also in the works, perfecting plant strains that don't make you sleepy or hungry.  Multiple lawsuits are working their way through the courts to push for more qualifying conditions.  Post operative chronic pain could be added in the next few weeks.

The links below can jump start your research as well as walk you through the application process for a medical marijuana card.  Joel Erickson, along with five other administrators, patients, and advocates, run the IllinoisMCC Facebook page (see link below).  Their goals include education, information, and helping anyone in need, including emotional support.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Illinois for more than three years. But, the first harvest didn't happen until just about a year ago. More than 11,000 residents now hold medical marijuana cards.  But, who qualifies, and how do you get one? Nothing about this start up environment has been easy, as state regulators, cultivators, and dispensaries try to figure out how to handle a drug that could have put you in jail not along ago, and is still illegal by federal law.  But as WGN's Steve Sanders reports, for many people, medical marijuana has been life changing.

You should also know that medical marijuana is NOT covered by insurance. And by state law, dispensaries only accept cash.

In the works for the future; an expedited application process and more qualifying conditions. In fact, PTSD was recently added to the list. And there's a hearing in Chicago in a few weeks to add chronic post operative pain.

Producer Pam Grimes and photographer Kevin Doellman contributed to these reports.

Please share this story if you know someone who might benefit from medical marijuana. These products are not covered by insurance plans and by state law, dispensaries accept only cash.

And we've compiled the links below to give you even more information, including how to start the application progress.