Questions raised on Missouri’s implementation of medical marijuana

A week after Missouri voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 2 legalizing medical marijuana in the Show-Me State, a lot of questions are being asked about what exactly is coming.

Missouri is the 32nd state to legalize medical marijuana, and we learned a lot about what to expect in Missouri by going into Illinois.

Medical marijuana has been available in the Land of Lincoln since 2015.

More than 46,000 people in Illinois have been approved to use medical marijuana since the state began accepting applications in September of 2014.

Among those people is 53-year-old Becky Wagner from Belleville.

She has four conditions that qualify her for medicinal cannabis.

“It`s just changed my whole life. I can work throughout the day now without leaving early,” said Becky.

She added, “Not only is my pain under control, I feel healthier overall. I don`t have the side effects to the narcotics and the other medications.”

Becky buys her medical marijuana from HCI Alternatives in Collinsville.

It was the first dispensary, as they`re called, to open in the metro-east back in January of 2016.

Chris Stone, the CEO of HCI Alternatives, says the Illinois program has had challenges.

Among them, limits on qualifying medical conditions, the process for patients to get medical marijuana access cards and doctor involvement in the program.

He says some issues are being resolved.

“The program itself and the rules governing the program in the state of Illinois have been really good to work through and work with. I would say that the implementation has been a little bit slow and fraught with some barriers to entry both on the political side as well as on the regulatory side,” explained Stone.

Brian Fox opened the first dispensary in Illinois in November of 2015 in Marion.

He says Missouri patients are going to have an easier time getting medical marijuana than those in Illinois.

Missouri is going to start with at least 192 dispensaries; Illinois only has 55.

Missouri will also have more qualifying medical conditions.

“Missouri is going to have a much better way to reach out to the patients and having them have access to the medicine. In Illinois you have to register as a patient with one dispensary which means you can only go to that dispensary for your medication. Well not every dispensary is going to have the medicine you want or need so Missouri is going to give you that freedom to choose where you want to purchase your medication,” said Brian Fox.

John Payne was the campaign manager for Amendment 2.

He is optimistic about a smooth implementation because he says a lot was learned from medical marijuana laws in other states.

“None of these processes are ever easy so I`m sure there`s going to be some bumps in the road. But I think we`ve set out a very clear timeline for when everything is supposed to happen,” explained Payne.

Dr. David Yablonsky, an Edwardsville internist, has certified around 100 patients to get medical marijuana access cards in Illinois.

He believes doctors in Missouri may be hesitant at first to get involved with the program.

He plans to help educate Missouri doctors.

“This is something that they haven`t been used to getting involved with directly and so with that, there can be a little bit of fear. It`s not something we learned about in medical school or residency training,” said Yablonsky.

Whatever the case, Becky has a message for Missourians interested in medical marijuana.

“Be very excited. Don`t be afraid, don`t wait. Sign up for it, go try it,” said Becky.

Even though Amendment 2 officially takes effect on December 6th, we`re told it will be at least late next year before medical marijuana will be available in Missouri.

Officials say it will take that long to get everything up and running.

Here are key dates for Amendment 2:

  • In June of next year, applications for medical marijuana will be available for both patients and businesses.
  • In July of next year, potential patients can start turning in applications and receiving their access cards.
  • Next August businesses can start submitting applications to be part of the program.