News Local/State

Illinois Medical Marijuana Applicants Trending Female, Older


The patient most commonly seeking a doctor's blessing to use medical marijuana in Illinois is an older woman in Cook County with either severe fibromyalgia or cancer, according to data published Thursday in a report to the legislature.

The eight-page report is straightforward and makes no predictions about the future of the state's medical marijuana pilot program, which Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner inherited from his Democratic predecessor, Pat Quinn.

The Illinois Department of Public Health compiled the data to fulfill a requirement in the medical marijuana law to report on the program annually to lawmakers.

The report shows more than one-third of 3,300 completed patient applications submitted through June 30 came from residents of Cook County (1,180 applicants).

Counties with the next highest number of applicants — Will (193), DuPage (186), Lake (173) and Kane (115) — also are in northern Illinois.

Sixty percent of applicants were female. More than half were older than 51. Severe fibromyalgia and cancer led the list of qualifying conditions, followed by spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis.

Nearly 1,200 physicians submitted patient certifications, including one doctor who wrote certifications for 998 patients. Ninety-nine percent of the doctors certified fewer than 24 patients.

Illinois law allows marijuana to be used for 39 health conditions, but chronic pain is not among them.

The report notes that chronic pain is an approved use in 18 of the 23 states that allow medical marijuana.

"Unlike those states, Illinois does not have a general chronic pain category for which no underlying disease or medical condition is identified," the report states. "In Colorado, 'chronic pain' accounts for 93 percent of all reported debilitating conditions by patient applicants. In Arizona, 72 percent of patients apply under the 'chronic pain' category."

In Illinois, the first legal marijuana is expected to be sold in licensed dispensaries later this month.