CHAMPAIGN — At least one of the two medical marijuana dispensaries coming to Champaign-Urbana is projected to open sometime in March.
Phoenix Botanicals, to be operated by Phoenix Farms, is under construction at 1704 S. Neil St., Suite C, Champaign, and should be able to pin down its exact opening day in March in about a week, according to Caprice Sweatt, founder and CEO of Medical Cannabis Outreach, the organization hired by Phoenix Farms to register and educate patients in the area.
As of Monday, the state hadn't yet approved final dispensary licenses for Phoenix Farms or NuMed Rx, the dispensary planned to open at the former Blockbuster Video store at 105 E. University Ave., U.
Jerry Ramshaw, president of Ramshaw Real Estate and a part-owner of the building, said the dispensary will be leasing about 2,000 square feet.
Sweatt, also both a longtime medical cannabis patient and a partner of the Salveo Health & Wellness cannabis dispensary in Canton with her husband, Eric Sweatt, will help launch Phoenix Botanicals with four free educational seminars to be held in Champaign, Urbana, Danville and Charleston this month and in early February.
Medical Cannabis Outreach provides free patient registration services, along with fingerprinting and photographs, counseling, education and community outreach.
Sweatt will cover information on Illinois' medical cannabis pilot program and the state law, the medicinal benefits of cannabis and the current research, she said.
After each one-hour program, she said, people attending can stick around for help with the application process. Fingerprinting, a required part of the application, is provided, she said.
"It's a tough process," Sweatt said. "You have to get that doctor on board."
The 49-year-old Sweatt said she's had Crohn's disease, a potentially debilitating condition that can come with abdominal pain and fatigue, for 33 years. She began medicating with cannabis in her 20s, and has been prescription drug-free for 25 years, she said.
Doctors often deny patients access to medical cannabis, even when they're terminally ill, she said, and her organization is also working with a large cultivator on outreach and education for doctors to change that.
For others who doubt the benefits, she encourages them to do some research.
"Google medical marijuana and that condition and you're going to be blown away by the studies that have been done," she said.
Her organization has gotten about 780 patients registered across the state, Sweatt said.
As long as patients have one of the 39 approved conditions on the list and they don't have a felony record, "we can get them approved to the program," she said.
Medical Cannabis Outreach plans to have office space in Champaign, probably inside Phoenix Botanicals, to register patients, Sweatt said.
Seminars have been scheduled for:
— Jan. 23, Danville Public Library, 319 N. Vermilion St., Danville, 2-3 p.m.
— Jan. 24, Champaign Public Library, 200 W. Green St., Champaign, 2-3 p.m.
— Feb. 6, Charleston Carnegie Public Library, 712 6th St., Charleston, 2-3 p.m.
— Feb. 7, Urbana Free Library, 210 W. Green St., Urbana, 10-11 a.m.