October 19, 2021

DeKalb forum addresses medical marijuana

DeKALB – Jessica Woollcombe said when she’s smoked marijuana in the past, she’s been able to walk and not rely on the crutches or wheelchair that multiple sclerosis confined her to.

“Nothing below my waist does anything,” Woollcombe said. “In the past, I would smoke a little bit, and I could walk. It’s that drastic of a difference to me.”

Woollcombe, who lives in DeKalb, attended a forum Thursday night hosted at WNIJ titled “Context: Medical Marijuana and Illinois,” which brought panelists from across the state to DeKalb to answer questions or clear up confusion about Illinois’ medical marijuana pilot program.

“It’s really hard to find the information online, because most of what you find is press releases or advertisements that help you get in touch with dispensaries or wants to sell you bongs,” Woollcombe said. “It’s hard to find solid information.”

The panel consisted of John and Christina Leja of PharmaCann LLC; Dan Linn, executive director of the Illinois Chapter to Reform Marijuana Laws; and Bradley Vallerius, an attorney and author of the book “Illinois Medical Marijuana Law: A Practical Guide for Everyone.”

Legislators OK’d a pilot medical marijuana program in 2013, but the drug has yet to be sold legally in the state.

“I certainly understand that there are patients in need,” John Leja said. “But ... I think [state officials have] done the right in ensuring the program is successful in [the] long term.”

The state has approved 2,500 medical marijuana patients.

“Months ago, we were seeing patients who were applying taking up to two months to receive the card,” Christina Leja said. “Now, we’re seeing them get cards in two weeks.”

Linn said Illinois has one of the “most restrictive” medical marijuana pilot programs of all the states.

“It is overly burdensome to the patients,” he said. “I think a lot of the problems and restrictions were put in place as part of the political process.”

Carole Minor of DeKalb attended because she said she has a friend with lung and brain cancer, and was curious what the benefits of medical marijuana would be for her friend who is undergoing chemotherapy.

She also was curious for herself because she has osteoarthritis.

She said the possible medical marijuana dispensary in Sycamore would be a good thing.

“If I needed it, it would be convenient,” she said.

Maryann Loncar, president of Mother Earth Holistic Health in Plainfield, has been an advocate for medical marijuana in the state and attended Thursday’s discussion. She said “education” is a big part of medical marijuana.

“We find there’s a lot of older patients in their 60s, 70s and 80s that were part of that generation that don’t understand what the big [deal] is about it,” Loncar said.

The event concluded with a question-and-answer session.