Aha Moments for Illinois’ Medical Cannabis Program

Aldwin M. Anterola, Chief Scientific Officer of AHA cannabis testing lab spoke to a group of Missouri cannabist activists at the Greater St. Louis NORML. meeting.

Aldwin M. Anterola (R) Chief Scientific Officer of AHA is congratulated by Greater St. Louis NORML Board Member Blake Bell (L).
By: Cecil King   

Aha Moments for Illinois’ Medical Cannabis Program   

Missouri’s next door state neighbor Illinois continues to fine tune its medical cannabis program while cannabis activists in the Show Me State fight legal battles to get a medical cannabis initiative on the November 8th ballot.

Illinois’ lab Advanced Herbal Analytics, LLC (AHA) based in Carbondale, one of the state’s five cannabis testing labs, is betting recent changes in Illinois’ Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, or MCPPA, will help to jump-start the state’s legal medical cannabis sales.

Without a growing customer base, cannabis testing labs, dispensaries and cultivators could be affected by low sales volume.

“As long as the dispensaries have product on their shelves not being sold, orders to cultivators will not happen,” offers Aldwin M. Anterola, Chief Scientific Officer of AHA, who spoke to a group of Missouri cannabis activists at the Greater St. Louis NORML meeting on Sept. 12th. Low product sales mean less product for testing says Anterola, a critical requirement for medical cannabis products.

On August 2, 2016, faced with the potential of adding the failing medical cannabis program to his political legacy, Gov. Bruce Rauner listened to cultivators and dispensary owners and extended the pilot program till January 1, 2020. He also approved additional qualifying conditions to the program. These steps should encourage patients to apply to the program.

Adding more medical cannabis patients to the program is exactly what AHA lab needs. On September 7th the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced the number of approved applicants reached 10,033, the highest number to date. IDPH’s figures include 74 patients under 18 years of age who can now enter the program.

In a public relations effort to build more interest in the program with Illinois citizens, the department lifted a media ban allowing reporters to enter the inside of cultivation facilities. But the prohibitionist mindset lingers on with strict rules that do not allow photos or video of a facility’s security systems.

It has taken just about two years to reach 10,033 patients starting when applications were initially accepted on September 2, 2014. An additional 2,367 applicants are awaiting approval from the IDPH.

Medical doctors nervous about recommending cannabis therapy and putting their medical licenses in jeopardy now only need to certify a patient’s diagnosis. Doctors are not required to recommend cannabis on the new forms posted online by the IDPH August 2nd.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was added as a debilitating condition at the end of June. Veterans can apply for a medical cannabis registry identification card and must submit one year of medical records from the Veterans Administration facility where they receive services. Persons diagnosed with a terminal illness can apply to the program and will not have to pay application fees or be fingerprinted for their ID card.

The number of Illinois’ licensed medical cannabis dispensaries has increased to 44. Retail sales of medical cannabis for August totaled $3,301,674, including $2,001,601 in dry flower sales and $1,299,948 concentrates/infused-products. Cannabis dispensaries served almost 6,400 unique patients, who purchased 161,660 grams of dry cannabis in August, or about 481 lbs.

Hopeful Missouri medical cannabis entrepreneurs are closely watching the Illinois sales figures. Could a Missouri-based legal medical cannabis dispensary create a successful business plan with the $44,654 gross sales average an Illinois dispensary will bring in monthly?

That question can only be answered once Missouri citizens finally get a chance to vote and pass a medical cannabis initiative.