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There are several current and emerging markets in Illinois for cannabis-related products. Medical marijuana is already legal in the state, farmers are gearing up to grow industrial hemp, and lawmakers could consider a measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Whether or not recreational use becomes legal, the business of cannabis is already established in the Land of Lincoln and our reports are intended to bring you information related to these efforts."State of Cannabis" is a collaborative effort among public radio stations across Illinois.Special thanks to participating stations in reporting and editing:Illinois Newsroom, NPR Illinois, Tri-States Public Radio, WBEZ, WCBU, WDCB, WGLT, WILL, WNIJ, WSIU, WVIK-Reporter Roundtable-- Why are we doing this series now? Features WGLT's Ryan Denham, WSIU/Illinois Newsroom's Steph Whiteside, WNIJ's Sarah Jesmer -From Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, Rich Egger visited a medical marijuana cultivation facility in west central Illinois to get their perspective.-From NPR Illinois in Springfield, Jaclyn Driscoll has been closely covering the issue. She sat down with Sean Crawford to give us an update on the legislative timeline of recreational marijuana.-When Illinois issued the first licenses for medical marijuana businesses in 2015, almost all the recipients were white. We look at what a more racially diverse marketplace might look like if the state legalizes recreational use. From WBEZ in Chicago, Susie An reports.-Existing rules around the Illinois medical cannabis program could make the rollout for recreational use a less daunting task. But there are plenty of unanswered questions at the federal level which could complicate the process. From WNIJ in DeKalb, Chase Cavanaugh reports.-Northwestern Illinois’ Stephenson County is one area where changes in the status of cannabis are being embraced. The people doing it are not necessarily the ones you’d expect. From WNIJ in DeKalb, Guy Stephens has more.-From WSIU and Illinois Newsroom in Carbondale, Steph Whiteside explains how some patients are considering marijuana as an alternative to opioids.-From WCBU in Peoria, Tanya Koonce brings us the view from Peoria with a doctor who talks about how health providers are navigating conversations with patients who are considering marijuana use.-In today’s legal market, there’s more than just your typical joint if you want to get high. There are cookies, gummies, weed-infused drinks and more... but how might these different products affect you? From NPR Illinois in Springfield, reporter Jaclyn Driscoll has more.-The debate over legalization touches on so many thorny issues -- criminal justice reform, health care, and balancing a state budget coated in red ink. But it's also an economic issue. From WGLT in Bloomington/Normal, Ryan Denham visits a small town in central Illinois where medical marijuana has brought new jobs, new tax revenue, and a hope for more.-Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz says she’s concerned about how legalization could impact the juveniles she works with on a daily basis. She’s also concerned about how the state will address cannabis impaired driving. Illinois Public Media’s Lee Gaines recently interviewed Rietz.-Susan Stephens with WNIJ in DeKalb reports, attitudes are changing about cannabis use.-With conversations about legalizing recreational marijuana, you also may have heard about CBD. This is a very different hemp product and it’s completely legal. Sarah Jesmer with WNIJ in DeKalb reports, those in the CBD market are trying to prepare for possible changes on the horizon. -Illinois Governor J.B.Pritzker wants legalize recreational marijuana to provide an economic boost for the state. At Rock Island’s Augustana College, students have different reasoning behind their perspective. Reporter Natalie Spahn from WVIK in Rock Island found out, many identify themselves in the "pro" category. -Reporter Roundtable #2 There may be more questions than answers as state leaders consider their next step. Features WGLT's Ryan Denham, WSIU/Illinois Newsroom's Steph Whiteside, WNIJ's Sarah JesmerRELATED: Marijuana Investor Gives $9 Million To Harvard And MIT For Cannabis Science (WBUR)

Cannabis Merges Into Health Care

The Carver office of Heartland Health Services is located on W. John Gwynn Jr. Ave. in Peoria.
Tanya Koonce
Peoria Public Radio
The Carver office of Heartland Health Services is located on W. John Gwynn Jr. Ave. in Peoria.

We are taking a closer look at what the legalization of cannabis could mean for Illinois. The State of Cannabis is a collaborative reporting effort by public radio stations across the state. This piece in the series looks at the potential health care considerations of recreational marijuana.

This story is part of a weeklong series from Illinois public radio stations focusing on the potential impact of marijuana legalization.
This story is part of a weeklong series from Illinois public radio stations focusing on the potential impact of marijuana legalization.

Tanya Koonce from Peoria Public Radio talks with Dr. Gregg Stoner, the chief medical officer of Heartland Health Services. Stoner manages the federally funded health care agency that includes nearly 30 doctors and physicians assistants. Last year the agency served more than 23,000 people and had more than 75,000 office visits.

Stoner said the agency does not prescribe medical marijuana in part because it would have been inundated with requests. Rather, he says, the health care providers of the agency refer patients with qualifying conditions to other doctors for medical marijuana cards.

“Even if Illinois legalizes recreational marijuana and even though it’s legalized medical marijuana, we would be violating federal law by certifying it. So that’s another major reason that we don’t prescribe it," Stoner said.Listen to the story.

Reporter: What concerns do you generally have about patients who haven’t used cannabis before, but are considering it and now may be able to get it and won’t need a referral for the prescription drug card?

Stoner: People that have not tried marijuana and yet they have a condition they feel might benefit from the use of marijuana will try it, if it’s truly legal in the state for recreational use and they will either benefit from it or they won’t. And we hear different responses from people because people use it pretty widely in our population and some people say it helps and some people say it doesn’t help whatever they have. And so I think they will individually experiment and find out if it helps them at all.

Reporter: Is the use of marijuana—medically prescribed or otherwise—a conversation now that doctors are having with their patients, just as doctors have conversations about alcohol use?

Dr. Gregg Stoner is chief medical officer at Heartland Health Services.
Credit OSF Healthcare
Dr. Gregg Stoner is chief medical officer at Heartland Health Services.

Stoner: Any given patient that we have that’s on a controlled substance we do a urine toxicology on them, at least yearly, and we often see marijuana in their urine toxicology. I don’t know the number, but it’s probably well over 50% of our patients. Given that, there’s actually a variance in our different providers in how they approach this. There are some who truly believe that this is a gateway drug and they don’t want to encourage its use under any circumstances, and they’ll discontinue other controlled substances if the urine toxicology is positive for marijuana. And some of our other providers actually accept the fact that people are going to use marijuana although illegally and still continue to manage whatever problem that is requiring their ongoing controlled substance use.

Reporter: What other concerns might you have relative to the potential legalization of recreational marijuana?

Stoner: There are a couple of major concerns. One is, the effect on people’s behavior. It seems to be an anti-motivating drug. In countries that have legalized marijuana they see fewer people completing their college education. They see a higher rate of people going on Medicaid. They see, just kind of a decline in people’s ambition to succeed.

The other concern is the effect on reaction time and driving ability. Auto accidents go up in areas where marijuana is legalized. I don’t know how the state is going to test for that. Because blood alcohol levels change quickly but marijuana stays in the body for a long time as far as being detected. So someone who smokes marijuana three or four weeks ago, it will still be positive in their urine. So I don’t know how it will affect our traffic laws and in convicting people of driving under the influence of marijuana, but that will certainly happen.

Then the other thing is kind of the gateway effect. Is marijuana a gateway drug? Studies show that it indeed is. Teenagers who use marijuana are much more likely to use cocaine and can progress on to other drugs.  Many people don’t, but it can happen, especially when it is used in the teenage years.

Copyright 2019 WCBU

Tanya Koonce is the News Director at Peoria Public Radio. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism from Eastern Illinois University, and a M.A. in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield. Tanya started her news career in TV, managed two political campaigns after college, worked in state government and did some state association work before going back to school. Post master’s degree, she’s worked in commercial radio and operated her own freelance agency before taking a reporter position at WCBU in 2001, and becoming news director in 2008. She’s currently serving as the Treasurer of the Illinois News Broadcaster’s Association, lives in Peoria and loves discovering interesting people, places and things.