Even though medical-cannabis dispensary HCI Alternatives only has outlets in Springfield and Collinsville, CEO Chris Stone said starting next week, drivers as far north as Cook County will see its billboards, with the tagline “I got my life back with medical cannabis.”
Springfield cannabis patient Kyla Travis is featured on one of the 31 billboards. Travis was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was 17.
Travis said she had obtained cannabis illegally to self-medicate.
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“I couldn't walk, I couldn’t get around, I couldn’t do what I was supposed to do, and I had to make a decision,” Travis said. “I was going to either threaten my freedom, for real, or continue to go through the pain and agony.”
Travis, now almost 60, said she won’t go back to prescription drugs to manage her symptoms now that medical cannabis is legal. Other patients have said medical cannabis allowed them to stop taking several hundred prescription pills a month.
Stone said HCI will profit from the billboard campaign, but said he hopes it will inform both potential patients and doctors.
Meanwhile, if recreational pot ever were to become legal in Illinois, there are differing opinions on what the marketplace would look like.
Scott Abbott used to arrest drug offenders as an Illinois State Police trooper, but now he works at HCI Alternatives.
Abbott hopes that if the state ever does legalize recreational pot, it’s as heavily regulated as medical pot.
“Once you are up and running (in the medical cannabis pilot program), it makes it easier to regulate and stay in compliance because it was a little harder on the front end.”
Stone said that depending on how a legalization law would be crafted in Illinois, HCI would be ready.
Marijuana Policy Project’s Chris Lindsay said Illinois should take note of another state’s legal cannabis marketplace.
“What happens in places like Colorado, you’ll have as many businesses as the market can bear, rather than the approach that Illinois took, which is to say, ‘Here’s exactly the number you can have,’ “ Lindsay said.