Medical marijuana shortages in Illinois reported at dispensaries since legalization

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Not everything has been running smoothly since recreational marijuana became legal in Illinois. Despite promises from lawmakers and protections built into the law, there are some shortages for patients seeking marijuana to treat medical conditions.

Medical marijuana patient Neal Gerber tried a new cannabis product Monday because his dispensary is out of some of the products he bought before the market opened to recreational users.

"Sometimes the shelves don't have what they used to or they are sold out," he said. "I adapt."

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While Geber is happy to try something new, other patients have complained about the lack of supply.

The Illinois recreational marijuana law mandates dispensaries must have enough product for their medical patients on hand, but some are finding it is not the same pot product they were buying to treat their conditions.

"We do want to protect medical patients, and that certainly has been the goal, so we all share frustrations they are not having complete access to the product the way they need," said State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), who helped craft the bill.

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Lawmakers anticipated a shortage for recreational users, but hoped it would not affect medical patients. Steans said the combination of a recent expansion of the medical program, high demand by recreational users, and the existence of only 21 cultivation centers in the state have made it challenging.

She said the Pritzker administration is working on data to see where the problem lies.

"Is it that the suppliers are producing it but not selling it to the medical dispensaries the way they should, or is it they just don't have enough?" she said. "We will be tweaking it the best way we can."

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The state has been and will be issuing fines to dispensaries and cultivation centers if medical patients are not getting what they need. In the meantime, patients like Gerber said as long as they are getting something they will be patient.

"I'm open-minded to trying new items," Gerber said.

More cultivation and craft grower licenses will be awarded in the next few months. Sen. Steans said it will probably take a year before a supply shortage is no longer an issue.

With a managed growth approach to legalization, lawmakers expected it to take time to work out the kinks.
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