| October 30, 2018

High Demand of Medical Marijuana in Illinois is Creating Boom in the Market

Andreea Ciulac

Andreea Ciulac is former Chicago Tribune writer with almost a decade of reporting experience. She has a knack for deciphering... Andreea Ciulac is former Chicago Tribune writer with almost a decade of reporting experience. She has a knack for deciphering complex medical reports and statistics and conveying them into engaging stories that will help executives in healthcare keep up with the digital transformations in their industry. She covers an array of topics from pharma to startups and the Illinois healthcare system.

The opioid law recently signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner to expand Illinois’ medical marijuana program created a boom in the local market. With more people trading their opioid prescriptions for medical marijuana ones, the number of suppliers skyrocketed, too.

Growing facilities and dispensaries are quickly multiplying all across the state.

Grassroots Cannabis, Illinois’ largest medical cannabis company, just announced an exclusive licensing agreement with edibles producer Wana Brands. Grassroots serves 24 percent of the state’s patients.

Created in 2014, when Illinois implemented the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, the company currently operates eight dispensaries across the state. Wana Brands produces gummies from cannabis plants like Sativa and Indica, and they are expected to hit the shelves in local dispensaries by the end of the year.

“America’s next great industry is cannabis”

At the beginning of October, a Los Angeles-based cannabis company decided to set-up camp in Chicago. MedMen Enterprises purchased Seven Point, a licensed medical cannabis dispensary in Oak Park, IL.

Another company wanting a slice of the marijuana market pie in Illinois? Verano Holdings. Verano is a new Chicago-based holding company that consolidates the ownership and management of cannabis licenses like Ataraxia, Zen Leaf, Verano, and 3 Boys Farms.

It owns cultivation facilities in Florida, Maryland, Nevada, and Illinois. Estimates show that the last three will more double their revenue in 2018. The company recently raised $120 million in financing, which it will use to fund new expansion initiatives in various states, including its Illinois facility. About $88 million equity investment came from Toronto-based Scythian Biosciences and another $32 million came from private sources.

“America’s next great industry is cannabis,” said George Archos, Verano’s chairman and CEO. “It is rare to be part of a revolutionary change that can have a profound impact on human health, wellness and happiness.”

Verano has an aggressive expansion strategy to become one of the largest and most profitable cannabis companies in the U.S. in 2019. “This transformative investment will fast-track our long-term goal to dominate the most important growth industry in the United States,” Archos explained.

Cook County breaks the record for medical pot users

All signs point to high profits for these companies. Sales of medical and recreational marijuana could reach $22 billion by 2022, according to the 2018 edition of the Marijuana Business Factbook. Last year, total marijuana sales in the U.S. were close to $6.6 billion.

These positive predictions are driven by the new medical marijuana expansion bill signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, which is meant to combat the opioid epidemic.

“It’s clear that medical marijuana treats pain effectively, and is less addictive and disruptive than opioids,” the governor said.

The new legislation allows doctors to authorize cannabis to patients qualify for opioid prescriptions. As a result, the use of medical marijuana has risen 83 percent this year in Illinois with more than 40,000 users, showed a recent state report.

The law makes it easier for Illinois residents to get their hands on recreational marijuana.

New applicants won’t be fingerprinted anymore, nor they will undergo a criminal background check. With a doctor’s authorization, they can even get an online provisional registration to buy medical cannabis, while they wait for state officials to reply to their request. Prospective patients need to pay $100 if they are applying for a one-year card, $200 for a two-year card, and $250 for the three-year card. Veterans and people with disabilities pay only half of all fees.

Many users turn to cannabis to treat PTSD and fibromyalgia. In Illinois, the most certified patients (7,500) live in Cook County.

Illinois is one of 31 states in the country that administers a medical marijuana program. However, it has stricter requirements than other states. To qualify, patients must have any of about 40 debilitating medical conditions including cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. The complete list can be found here.

The pilot medical cannabis program is due to expire in July 2020.

 


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