Smoke clears on medical marijuana dispensary planned for Worth

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The stigma attached to the use of medical marijuana to relieve pain for a variety of illnesses appears to be lessening, that is if the reaction of visitors who attended the information session at the Worth Village Hall on Sept. 24 is any indication.

Steve Weisman, chief operating officer of Windy City Cannabis, and Feliza Castro, CEO and founder of The Healing Clinic, addressed a large crowd that had many questions relating to the use of medical cannabis..

The fact the there was no opposition to the program was not lost on Castro.

“This is a first for me,” Castro told the crowd at the beginning of the meeting.

Worth is one of four locations in the south and southwest suburbs that will have a medical cannabis facility. The Worth location will be at 11425 S. Harlem Ave. Other facilities will be in Homewood, Justice and Posen.

Weisman said that officials in Worth were eager to set up an information session after the village was designated to become one of the dispensary center sites. Other meetings in other locations will be set up at a later date, said Weisman.

During her presentation, Castro told the audience that she has lupus, an inflammatory disease that has no cure. A spinal cord injury complicated her condition.

“The medicine that they gave me made me very sick,” said Castro. “I lost over 20 pounds. I didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.”

After her condition worsened, Castro looked into alternatives and began to research the availability of medical cannabis. She was living in Michigan at the time where medical cannabis was approved.

“Medical cannabis for me was a complete game changer,” added Castro, who soon began to organize a movement to make it available throughout the country. The Healing Clinic became the first medical marijuana patient advocate center in Chicago.

She became a registered user of medical cannabis in Michigan during 2009. “I’m not saying that it will work for everyone but it worked for me.”

Castro said that the Healing Clinic offers state compliant patient services for residents seeking to register for a marijuana patient ID card. The clinic has a group of doctors and medical marijuana patient advocates to serve Chicago and suburban communities.

However, Weisman and Castro admitted that not all doctors are on board in regards to the use of medical marijuana.

“I think a lot of them are afraid to come out and say they approve it.,” said Castro. “But we are finding that there are more doctors out there who are working with our clinic.”

One resident at the meeting said that sessions are being offered at Advocate Christ Medical Center informing personnel about medical cannabis.

Castro gave a presentation about the history of marijuana dating back to colonial days. She mentioned that farmers were encouraged to grow hemp, which was used in a variety of ways. She also mentioned that Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson also grew hemp.

Weisman and Castro reminded the audience that medicinal cannabis is not be confused with the stereotypical images of drug addicts and stoners.

Medical conditions covered under the state’s medical cannabis program include Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Crohn’s disease, AIDS, HIV, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Castro said that earlier centers in some other states abused some of the privileges of medicinal marijuana. Some of the people getting the cannabis were not really sick.

However, both Weisman and Castro said the restrictions in Illinois prevent such abuses. Weisman said that the facility in Worth should open by the end of the year. Dispensaries were approved in 2014 by Gov. Pat Quinn. Delays occurred after Bruce Rauner defeated Quinn in the race for governor. Rauner held up the licenses but finally approved them.

Prices for medicinal marijuana range in price. Weisman said the cultivators for Illinois are still growing the product and have yet to set a price.

Chicago Ridge Mayor Mary Werner was also in attendance. She said the village held a series of meetings last year to discuss the dispensary. Many residents at the time had reservations.

“People came up to me later and thanked me,” she said. “They had some misconceptions. We addressed their concerns. We had to go through the zoning department and then take a vote from the trustees. They voted 6-0 for it. This town hall meeting was an information session. They have the permits so it’s just a matter of getting started.”

The applications for employment at the Chicago Ridge dispensary should be available in November.

“All I can say is Worth has been great,” said Weisman. “Mayor Werner has been incredible. She has been very receptive.”

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