Medical cannabis patients are concerned about cannabis shortage in Illinois

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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Cannabis has been legal in Illinois for the best part of a month, but medical cannabis patients in the Rockford area are concerned about supply shortages affecting their ability to obtain medication.

During the initial week of legal sales, cashiers statewide recorded a combined $10.8 million. Then, on Monday, January 7, a handful of recreational cannabis dispensaries in Illinois were closed; a decision that was made after shop owners experienced a surge in demand for legal cannabis that they failed to fulfill. 

Not only did cannabis dispensaries in Illinois suffer shortage problems but also, they were left scrambling to find extra staff who could tackle such a colossal amount of demand.

Terror; it means that I won’t have any relief. Because the only time that I actually have relief from pain is when I am sleeping,” said patient Alicia Neubauer, who has been diagnosed with Triple Negative Metastatic Breast Cancer. “It’s absolutely important and it helps to keep me asleep. It helps to prevent breakthrough pain keeping me awake,” she adds.

Neubauer is one of many patients who prefer using cannabis as a treatment over traditional opioid drugs. While opioids can effectively relieve pain, unpleasant side effects such as dizziness, sedation, itchy skin, constipation, dependence, nausea and vomiting can leave patients relying on alternative medicines, like cannabis.

Legalization of recreational cannabis in Illinois has put strain on medical sector

Governor J.B. Pritzker signed Illinois’ recreational cannabis bill the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Acton June 25, 2019. Legal sales kicked off on January 1, 2020, when it became the 11th U.S. State to legalize adult-use weed. However, Illinois was the first U.S. State to legalize recreational sales by a state legislature act, as opposed to voter initiatives in other states.

Medical cannabis patients in the state, like Neubauer, say that their preferred products have become more difficult to find since recreational sales started. As a new market, experts believe that balance will be restored when it matures.

“We’re kind of doing battles with the growers every day to purchase as much as we possibly can and to get it onto our shelves as quickly as possible,” says the owner of Rockford’s Mapleglen Care Center, Amy Manganelli. “Saying I know, my heart is breaking for you, and I’m sorry; it doesn’t really cut it,” she adds.

Dispensary owners like Manganelli say that customers will need to be patient. This is true for the customers who visit medical-only dispensaries, as well as the dispensaries that have obtained the necessary licenses to sell cannabis for medical and adult-use purposes. Until supplies are stable, some dispensaries like Mapleglen Care Center will restrict sales to medical-only; so as to serve the in-need first and foremost when stock is available.

“I really feel it’s my responsibility to stay medical,” Manganelli says.

Illinois cannabis dispensary recently published a statement about pot shortage concerns

Although cannabis shortages are fairly common post-legalization, industry experts fear that cannabis supply issues in Illinois may last for six months or, worst case scenario, as long as a year. One of the dispensaries suffering from a lack of weed, Rockford’s Sunnyside dispensary, failed to respond when a news outlet reached out for comment. Instead, the dispensary published an official statement.

“Sunnyside dispensaries continue to make medical patients our top priority and will be open for them only for Wednesday and Thursday of this week, reserving our supply to make sure they can always get their medicine,” the dispensary wrote in the second week of January.

On Monday, January 7, Cresco Labs closed its Sunnyside shops located in Champaign, Chicago and Rockford. The goal was to help the company “reset” business operations, replenish stock and provide the staff some respite from working 14-hour-long shifts everyday. The following day, medical and recreational customers were welcomed back inside Sunnyside cannabis retail stores.

In order to resolve the pot predicament and prevent future supply shortages, Illinois must start churning out more cannabis to satisfy patient demand. According to a report from New Frontier Data that was published in November 2019, the state is anticipated to grow one million pounds of cannabis by 2025.