Homewood’s medical marijuana dispensary changing lives on chronically ill

John puts his empty pill bottles on the table when he addresses audiences about his use of medical marijuana. Since he got his card as a patient for medical marijuana 12 months ago, he says his life has turned around.
 
Injured on the job two years ago, John has had spinal disk fusion near his neck, surgery for a torn ligament in his shoulder and still has herniated disks in his low back. His nerve damage prevents him from holding a bottle to pour milk into a glass. He uses a cane for balance support.
 
John said his doctors prescribed a host of pills. 
 
“They had a pharmaceutical party in my body,” he said. He was depressed and in so much pain that he’d sit in his basement and look at the ceiling, or he’d fall asleep. He wouldn’t think to leave the house. 
 
But he feels his life is back on track now that he is off most of the pills he was taking. He uses one dose of prescribed morphine in the morning and a puff or two of marijuana every few hours. He is happy to be able to spend time with his wife and young children.
 
John, a patient at Windy City Cannabis (WCC) in Homewood, accompanies Brittany Kim, director of  Windy City’s patient outreach, at information seminars where he shares his story.
 
“I talk to people because I know they’re in the same situation as me,” he said.
 
Illinois legalized medical marijuana Jan. 1, 2014. Patients are required to have a state identification card that allows them to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. To obtain a card, patients must find a doctor who assess their needs and sign off on the alternative treatment.
 
Kim said today the medical marijuana dispensary has nearly 500 persons registered to purchase products at the Homewood location. The dispensary opened in January 2016 and serves patients with chronic or terminal illnesses.
 
About 20 patients were at a presentation Friday, Oct. 6, by consultant Tamer Mohamed, who explained the different ways the cannabis oils are collected and made available through sprays, lotions, as edibles, pills, topical patches and as plants for smoking and vaping.
 
Mohamed said Illinois has some of the strictest regulations in the country on product purity. Butane and other chemicals are used in extraction. In Illinois, just 10 parts-per-million of solvent molecules is acceptable compared to Colorado’s recreational marijuana market where the ratio is 5,000 parts-per-million.

The occasion for Mohamed's talk was a customer appreciation event hosted by WCC, but customers reciprocated with some appreciation of their own.
 
“The people here are fabulous,” said Denise, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and chronic kidney disease. “They are very knowledgeable and very helpful.”
 
She said staff at Windy City Cannabis dispensary worked with her to find the right marijuana mixture to induce sleep, reduce her depression and give pain relief. 
 
Dave, a 42-year-old patient who has suffered from kidney failure and Crohn’s Disease since he was 19, said starting on medical marijuana six months ago has enabled him to get off opiods.
 
“Before, I was without an alternative treatment,” he said.

Editor’s Note: Patient names have been changed to protect their privacy.

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