A green neon sign in the shape of a marijuana leaf has generated a buzz in Niles.
The storefront sign, visible from Milwaukee Avenue, hangs in the window of Green Bliss Clinic, one of the few doctor’s offices in the state specializing in medical marijuana evaluations.
The family-owned-and-operated practice at 7509 N. Milwaukee Ave. opened in anticipation of a new state law, which will legalize medical pot use starting Jan. 1.
Family physician J. Rene Dadivas, who has worked in Niles and the surrounding Chicago area since 1978, runs the clinic with his sons Jesus R. Dadivas, also a doctor, and Joe Dadivas, who holds an MBA in health care management.
Since its Oct. 4 debut, more than 500 people have visited the clinic, Joe Dadivas said.
He said the patients’ demographics have varied, and that their only similarity is a desire to be pain-free.
Dadivas views medical marijuana as an alternative treatment for ineffective prescription drugs. He explained how some people also now prefer natural over synthetic remedies for relief, similar to the rising demand for less processed, fresh foods.
“What this law will do is produce, what they’re hoping for, more organic, clean green,” he said.
The clinic’s conspicuous sign has also attracted the attention of local officials and village staff, some of whom are wary about Niles becoming a hotbed for marijuana distribution.
The Dadivases insist Green Bliss Clinic is a run-of-the-mill physician’s office, not a place to pick up weed.
“That’s California-style,” said Rene Dadivas, noting Illinois’ medical marijuana law is one of the strictest in the nation. “We don’t prescribe.”
A paper sign in the window also makes that clear, reading: “We are not a dispensary.”
What Green Bliss Clinic does do is educate and evaluate people who have a documented history of one of the 35 debilitating medical conditions outlined in the state’s Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act.
The list includes chronic diseases and disorders like cancer, glaucoma, Parkinson’s, and muscular dystrophy.
In order to qualify, patients must establish a bona fide relationship with the recommending physician, meaning not anyone from the street can walk in and out with the doctor’s approval, Dadivas said.
Instead of issuing prescriptions, the doctors give qualifying patients a recommendation for a certificate for medical cannabis use. Patients then use that recommendation to apply to the state of Illinoisfor permission to buy medical marijuana.
The Dadivases have been working closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health to develop rules for establishing what the doctor-patient relationship entails.
The process at Green Bliss Clinic involves an analysis of past medical records, a physical exam and follow-up appointments.
The cash-only clinic offers free initial consultations, and gives veterans a half-off discount on all services.
Rene Dadivas said he encountered patients in the past with chronic problems but “they couldn’t do anything about it.”
So far, the drug’s stigma doesn’t have Joe Dadivas worried. He said the clinic’s intake totals thus far demonstrate a real community need.
“There are a lot of people who have a lot of things listed [in the medical cannabis act], ” he said. “They’re trying to find another way out.”