Illinois Patient Waits 5 Months for Marijuana

Cancer Patient Waits 5 Months for Medicine

At the moment, Illinois has 19 grow facilities spread across the state. Those sites serve about 11,000 patients. Thats about 578 patients for each football-field sized lot, used exclusively for growing marijuana.
With the amount they are harvesting you would think there would be a surplus of medical marijuana, but Barbara Schneider says she has been waiting for her medical marijuana card for over five months. Barbara hasn’t been able to get into contact with anyone who can help her.

“Why does the state have this program if they make it so hard to get what they need?” she asks.

Barbara was first diagnosed with cancer 9 years ago. She was in remission for 7 years, 2 years ago she had a resurgence and is now going through chemotherapy for stage 4 breast cancer. Stage 4 cancer has spread to other areas of the body. Stage 4 cancer is also called metastatic cancer or advanced cancer.

“They say if nothing’s getting bigger, that’s good,” she notes. “The side effects I have are extreme fatigue, and nausea.”

Barbara knows that marijuana works for her. To get relief from the side effects, she has begun using it illegally to relieve her symptoms. The Illinois Medical Cannabis program allows certified patients to buy the drug legally, and she has been waiting for over 5 months to have the option to use marijuana within the law. “I want to use it legally,” she notes.

Barbaras Journey

Last May was the first time Schneider applied, submitting her fingerprints for a background check. For five months she’s been waiting to hear anything back from the state.
Schneider says she was first told that her prints were not acceptable to use because they cam back “unreadable”, and she had to have a second set taken. “They weren’t clear enough,” she says. “At one point, I was told I don’t have fingerprints!”

When she was told her fingerprints wouldn’t work, Schneider was told to give her information for a manual background check, which she was ready and willing to do, she still has yet to receive news.

“I started calling every day and no one ever answered the phone,” she says. “I got voice mail and left messages, but no one ever called me back.”

The Illinois Health Department

Health Department official, Melaney Arnold was contacted to comment on why Barbara hasn’t heard anything from the state. She insisted the state has no backlog in applicants, and that all agencies involved continue to work “to improve the pilot program and implement quality improvements to processes and procedures.”

“There are many factors that can extend the amount of time it takes to process an application,” Arnold said in an email to NBC5 Investigates. “For example, if documentation is missing or incorrect; when IDPH receives the physician certification; when IDPH receives fingerprint background check results.”

“Please note that a name-based background check takes longer to complete than a fingerprint background check,” she added. Arnold said the state processes between 1,000 and 1,200 applications every month. Following questions from NBC5 in Illinois, Arnold insisted that the Health Department had received approval from her background check on September 27th, and that she should be receiving a card “any day now.”

This week her card arrived in the mail.

Schneider wants to be an advocate for other patients in Illinois. She still would like to know why the process is so lengthy for people who need the medicine to improve their quality of life.

“Nobody should have to wait five months,” she said. “I’ve never even had a traffic ticket,” she says. “I don’t understand why a background check should take so long, and if it’s happening to me, it’s happening to a lot of other people.”

Cancer and Medical Marijuana

Learn more about Marijuana and Cancer from the National Cancer Institute at


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