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With new medical marijuana law, Chicago has ‘Good Intentions’

By Amanda Quisenberry

Good Intentions, the little-clinic-that-could, already has the medicine ball rolling in its quest to bring relief to thousands of sick Chicagoans.

In August, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law making Illinois the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana. The law — considered one of the most restrictive in the nation — went into effect Jan. 1.

Specific steps must be taken before any transactions can be made. Prospective patients must first be diagnosed with one of the 33 covered medical conditions, such as cancer, Parkinson’s Disease or HIV/AIDS.

Next, a doctor-patient relationship must be established with a physician willing to prescribe medical marijuana. Once that relationship is established, patients can then obtain a recommendation, which is taken to the Illinois Department of Public Health where ID cards will be issued. Qualified patients will then use their ID cards to purchase marijuana at a dispensary.

Although the law does not take effect for another couple of months — the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR) and the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) have until May 1 to release all formal rules and regulations — the city of Chicago is already prepping future patients for the multi-stepped process of obtaining the medication. Each step is stand-alone and must be adhered to in a systematic manner. For this reason, Chicago has been given a jumpstart by the opening of the first medicinal marijuana clinic in the state:  Good Intentions.

This little clinic emerges as a unique diamond in the not-so-rough streets of Wicker Park. Opening its doors six days after the bill was signed, Good Intentions received nearly 20,000 inquiries in its first two months of operation.

Tammy Jacobi is a registered nurse, as well as founder and chief executive officer of the clinic. She has a laid-back demeanor as a woman in charge, with killer legs supported by four-inch power pumps.

Jacobi also owns a clinic in Michigan, where she continues to work alongside Dr. Brian Murray a few times a month. By “placing her bets” that the bill would be signed on Jan. 1, Jacobi rented the space for Good Intentions in December 2012. From Michigan, she and her team kept an eye on events unfolding in Illinois, knowing there would be a need for doctors willing to prescribe.

“It was all about timing,” Jacobi said about getting the clinic ready for business so soon.

Nestled within a tiny strip of offices, Good Intentions, goes virtually unnoticed when traveling west on Ashland. The waiting room is small and cozy, with fresh coffee and a small flat-screen TV setting on a table next to a little fishbowl containing a battery-operated miniature red shark.

“We didn’t come in with a big budget,” Jacobi said. “We weren’t this big group of doctors, that was going to come and take over the marijuana industry in Illinois. We were just a doctor and a nurse that new we could help.”

Murray joined Jacobi at the onslaught. Dr. Halina Kalinowska came aboard in September, as well as one yet unannounced physician.  Jacobi does not anticipate a high number of clinics opening in Chicago in the future. According to her, choosing to prescribe marijuana is “kind of like throwing your (medical) license on the line and many doctors are not willing to do that.”

IDFPR paid a visit to Good Intentions the day it opened asking a multitude of questions about the legitimacy of Jacobi’s operation. Despite the legality of Good Intentions, the department issued a formal complaint. Jacobi has since removed all signs and stopped PR campaigns related to the clinic. She also is working closely with Rep. Lou Lang, chief sponsor of the Illinois medical marijuana bill, to ensure all regulations are properly adhered to.

Clinics such as Good Intentions won’t be dispensing marijuana, but rather acting as the site where residents can establish the important doctor-patient relationship — a step that many residents have already begun to work on.

Jim Schmeltzer, 46, is a tall, gregarious Chicagoan who lives with his partner, Jim, in a quaint, three-story walk up in Rogers Park. The two lead peaceful lives of simple pleasures along with their two cats, Opie and Sammy, and six goldfish — all named Jim. Schmeltzer has been living with HIV since 2003 and uses marijuana medicinally to curb nausea and calm his stomach.

Since his doctor won’t be prescribing marijuana, and he was one of the many who had trouble getting through to Good Intentions when it opened, Schmeltzer is establishing the necessary relationship with an out-of-state physician at the Arizona Medical Marijuana Certification Center.

“I thought that I should give my information, and trust, to an organization that has a track record in the medical marijuana area,” Schmeltzer said about his decision to work with the Arizona-based clinic.

For patients like Schmeltzer, the idea of premium pot at a reduced cost is intoxicatingly sweet. He currently goes to great lengths to ensure he is investing in the purest levels available and researches online precisely which strains best suit him. However, by the time he waltzes into a Chicago dispensary next year, all the research will have been done for him.

Menus of all things cannabis will await shoppers at local dispensaries. For patients looking to alleviate pain, relax muscles or relieve anxiety, Indica buds such as God’s Gift, Purple Dream and Sensi Star can whisk symptoms away. Smoking Indica produces a strong, body high causing sleepiness, and the ‘couch-locked’ feeling of total relaxation.

Patients on the prowl for an uplifting, energetic high that enhances their mood and stimulates creativity may try strains of Jack The Ripper, Cinderella 99 and Citrus Haze. Or, perhaps a hybrid — Chernobyl, Blue MaGoo, Super Silver Haze — will strike their fancy.

Edibles such as Cosmic Caramels, Groovy Granola Bars and Dixie Chocolate Truffles will be available for patients who want to abstain from smoking. The allowed quantity of marijuana is established at 2.5 ounces every two weeks.

Proposed amendments to city zoning codes will require growing facilities and dispensaries to obtain special use permits.  The number of cultivation facilities is capped at 22 — one for each State Police district — while the number of statewide dispensaries is limited to 60.

For the time being, Good Intentions is keeping a relatively low profile to keep state inquiries at bay. But come Jan. 1, the clinic will be out and proud with a billboard atop the building that reads, “Hello, my name is Medical Marijuana. How may I help you?”

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.