ILLINOIS (WCIA) –The number of people using medical marijuana has skyrocketed in just a year.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced this week 20,000 more people applied for medical marijuana cards this past year, that’s 83% more than the previous year.
Those in the industry say recent legislation expanding access to medical cannabis expansion plays a part. A new law signed by Governor Bruce Rauner (R) this August gives opioid patients access to medical cannabis. It also cuts down wait times by eliminating background checks and fingerprint scans.
That portion went into effect the day the bill was signed.
HCI Alternatives outreach coordinator Chris McCloud believes that’s why they’ve seen an uptick of roughly 400 new patients at their dispensary since then.
Statewide around 46,000 people now use medical marijuana. According to IDPH, one reason for the surge in applicants is PTSD.
Since being added to the list in 2016, numbers have more than doubled. PTSD is now the most common reason people are applying for a card.
McCloud says the increase exemplifies the desperation most people feel when looking for relief.
“I think what you see in a lot of patients is people that have tried everything to feel better so they’re willing to try anything to feel relief, that’s why people gravitate towards cannabis,” says McCloud.
Through a customer survey McCloud discovered roughly 90% of the HCI Alternatives’ patients say they’ve either stopped or greatly reduced their use of opioids because of their medical marijuana.
It’s those type of results that propelled state officials to expand access from just 41 conditions. They want more people off opioids to reduce overdoses and deaths plaguing nearly every region of the state.
Still, some doctors are wary of the cannabis option, fearing high THC levels could create new addiction.
McCloud says medical marijuana isn’t for everyone but says dispensaries have options with almost no THC to avoid that issue.
An IDPH spokesperson says prescribing medical marijuana is purely up to a doctor. They say it’s their call to determine if cannabis is the best option for their patient.