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Illinois sends approval letters to 1st medical pot patients; state says 1,000s of applications

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CHICAGO — The first approval letters have been sent to Illinois patients who've applied to use medical marijuana legally, Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold confirmed Monday.

Arnold said approximately a dozen letters have been sent as the state continues to review applications from patients, which have come in by the thousands since the beginning of the month.

Among the first to receive a letter was Jim Champion of Somonauk, who received an approval letter last week. He's a 48-year-old veteran with multiple sclerosis, a qualifying condition under the state's new medical cannabis law.

"I was shocked it came so fast," Champion told the Chicago Sun-Times. "I'm very excited."

To deal with the volume of applications, Illinois is taking them only from patients whose last names begin with A through L. Patients whose last names begin with M through Z have been asked to wait until Nov. 1 to apply.

Patients must have a written certification from a doctor and get a background check, then pay $100 a year to apply for a medical marijuana card. Disabled people and veterans will pay $50 annually. Patients must be diagnosed with one of the dozens of qualifying medical conditions, such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV or hepatitis C.

Last week, Illinois officials announced that more than 350 aspiring business owners had applied to grow or sell the state's first legal and taxed cannabis. That included 158 applications for cultivation centers and 211 applications for dispensaries. Illinois collected more than $5 million in nonrefundable fees from those applicants.

Illinois expects to grant up to 21 permits for cultivation centers and up to 60 permits for dispensaries before the end of the year. The first legal marijuana would be available to registered patients in the spring of 2015.


Online:

Medical Cannabis Pilot Program website: http://mcpp.illinois.gov

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