Adult-use marijuana is, barring a sudden change of heart from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, making its way to Illinois sooner rather than later.
The legislation states that consumers will be able to purchase legal, recreational cannabis as of Jan. 1, 2020.
Though heading to a dispensary and picking up marijuana will be new for Illinois adult-use consumers, medical use has been available to patients in the state since November 2015.
With the recent expansion to adult-use, the question now is, what does that mean for medical patients in Pekin and across the state?
Caprice Sweatt is the owner and founder of Medical Cannabis Outreach, which has a location in Pekin. MCO provides medical marijuana cards to patients across Illinois in what their website describes as a “safe, professional, clinical setting for patients with chronic or debilitating health conditions.”
Sweatt said there will be an effect on patients, but that it will be largely positive.
According to Sweatt, the trend in states that have legalized adult-use after having a medical program is that medical patients have lower cost options than adult-use customers.
“You see that the medical patients usually get more perks than the recreational people,” said Sweatt.
This comes in the form of different price points for medical and recreational consumers for cannabis products at dispensaries, and, according to Sweatt, medical customers often have a lower tax rate on the product as well.
An additional perk in the Illinois legislation is that medical patients will be allowed under the new law to grow their own cannabis plants.
According to IllinoisPolicy.org, medical marijuana patients can grow up to five plants at a time. For recreational consumers, it is not only illegal to grow their own plants, but punishable by a fine of $200.
Sweatt said the current medical cases seen by Medical Cannabis Outreach in Pekin are generally patients suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia. Over 80 percent of patients were 55 and older, she added.
A question she has received regarding adult-use is whether patients would stop using their medical card and begin making purchases as adult-use consumers.
Though she can’t say for certain, she believes that because of the national trends in pricing and the ability for medical patients to grow their own cannabis, the medical program won’t see much of a dip in participation.
“We don’t think (the adult-use bill) is going to affect us very much on the medical side,” said Sweatt.