By Derrick Stanley
Illinois officials announced Wednesday that July retail medical marijuana sales reached a new high at $2.9 million.
Medical marijuana sales have steadily climbed since November 9, when it first became available. June was the previous highest month at $2.57 million.
There are nearly 8,891 medical marijuana patients in Illinois and 40 registered dispensaries. Total retail sales since the program launched came to $16.3 million at the end of July.
Gov. Bruce Rauner signed new legislation last month adding post-traumatic stress disorder and terminal illnesses to the list of qualifying conditions and extending the pilot program until July 2020.
Patients who are terminally ill can apply for a medical marijuana card without a fee. But new patient identification cards for other patients will cost $300 and be valid for three years. Annual fees had been $100. Veterans and those who receive disability benefits can get a three-year card for $150.
Chicago patient advocate and industry analyst Joel Erickson says the price is too high.
"Patients are seeing these numbers and are scared about how they're going to pay for access," Erickson said. "That's a car or rent payment without any help from insurance. There needs to be alternatives for low or fixed-income patients to be able to afford access."