EFFINGHAM – A new business called “The Clinic” is just the ticket for what ails Tyler McKelvey.
The 29-year-old suffers from fibromyalgia and smokes cannabis to ease his agonies enough so he can work his night job manning a hotel front desk. A patient with the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, the Toledo man used to make a four-hour round trip to Marion to buy his drug from an approved clinic in that city, the nearest one to him.
Until The Clinic arrived, that is. The new medical cannabis dispensary in Effingham is still waiting final regulatory approval but expects to be serving patients such as McKelvey before the end of August.
“The trip here for me is just 25 minutes,” he said, smiling. “It's going to be so much easier.” McKelvey was one of dozens of potential patients, along with invited guests such as Effingham Mayor Jeff Bloemker, and lots of the just plain curious who packed an open house at The Clinic on Monday afternoon.
The secure areas where the drug will be stored were off-limits, but the waiting rooms and dispensary area were all on show. Painted in muted, relaxing colors, carpeted and decorated with antique touches such as large Edison-style light bulbs, the place had the feel of an upmarket hotel lobby. The only giveaway was artsy pictures of cannabis on the walls alongside a view of fall landscape.
“Our patients are sick, and so we try to make them feel comfortable,” said Ross Morreale. He is co-founder of a company called Ataraxia (it means tranquility), one of the firms that co-owns the clinic. Ataraxia also runs a 53,000-square-foot cannabis cultivation farm near Olney.
With some 6,000 patients registered with the state's medical cannabis program, and more seeking help with about 40 medical conditions covered by the program, ranging from cancer to Alzheimer's disease, Morreale said medicinal marijuana is growing ever more popular.
And Morreale said the public, even in an area he describes as relatively conservative such as Effingham, has become more accepting of the drug's value in helping people. He points to the problems of opiate-based drugs that he said are associated with the tragedies of addiction and overdose.
“Look at the data on those pharmaceutical opiate drugs; they're killing people,” he added. “Our products, our medicine, can help people get off of some of that stuff.”
The Clinic will carry about 100 cannabis products, according to manager Zachary Yborra, 29. From forms of the drug that can be smoked or inhaled to oils, capsules and brownies and caramels. “And gummy bears are really popular,” Yborra said.
The Illinois medical pot rules don't allow patients to consume their drugs on the premises. Yborra said they also shouldn't consume them in public and generally have to be careful because federal drug laws do not recognize cannabis as a legal drug.
He said the advantage of Effingham as a clinic location is its geography next to two interstates and within easy reach of patients heading home to use their drug such as McKelvey from Toledo. “Effingham is the hub city for everyone down here,” Yborra said. “You pull off the interstates, make a couple of turns, and you're here at The Clinic. This is a great location for us.”