In the three weeks since Illinois opened the floodgates of adult-use cannabis sales, licensed cultivators, producers, and dispensaries across the state have seen an insatiable demand for pot push weeks of long hours, extra shifts, and heavy stress. But budtenders and extractors aren’t the only busy cannabis professionals in the Prairie State. Since legal sales started, doctors who certify Illinois medical marijuana patients say they, too, have seen a sudden surge in applications and renewals for the state’s long-standing MMJ program.
During the first 17 days of 2020, 2,570 Illinois residents applied for medical marijuana cards, a 33 percent increase over the same period in 2019. And, while it might seem counterintuitive for Midwesterners to seek out medical marijuana licenses the week after all pot shops opened to adults age 21 and older, the reason is actually pretty savvy: Since medical patients are exempt from Illinois’ high recreational cannabis taxes and are guaranteed product supply amid frequent adult-use shortages, the benefits of patient status quickly outweigh the cost of easy access.
“If you’re being spared 20 or 30 percent cost on an edible and concentrate by being a medical patient, then you’ve got a real strong motivation to get a card,” said Tom Adams, managing director of industry intelligence at Colorado-based cannabis research company BDS Analytics to the Chicago Tribune.
As soon as Illinois’s adult-use program debuted, customers started complaining about high prices thanks to the state’s staggered tax structure, which adds extra fees to products with higher THC potency. But no matter the price, from Peoria to Chicago, pot shops saw long lines of recreational customers, with many stores quickly selling out of their limited adult-use supply. So, to avoid those dispensary disappointments, Illinoisans have been flocking to MMJ doctors in droves. At Medici Health Care in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, officials say they have gone from seeing 180 patients a week to 300 since the new year. At Innovative Wellness's clinic, also in Chicago, doctors say they have gone from 80 patients a week to 150.
“We predicted that there would be a bump in patient load for cannabis certification, but not the extent we are seeing,” Innovative Wellness's CEO Dr. Rahul Khare told the Tribune.
Like most new adult-use cannabis markets, Illinois is expected to bolster product supply in the coming months, which will hopefully help reduce lines at busy dispensaries. But with high taxes here to stay and shortages still on the immediate horizon, it’s safe to say that Illinois’ medical marijuana program is prepared to thrive in 2020.
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