Illinois: Medical Marijuana Could Be Available To Patients In Early 2015

IllinoisHeadlines

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Patients in Illinois who qualify under the state's Medical Cannabis Pilot Program could be able to start legally using marijuana early next year, according to program coordinator Bob Morgan, who is a lawyer for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

"Right now, we think it's a good time for patients to be having that conversation with their physicians and their caregivers if they have any interest in participating in the program," Morgan said.

The powerful Joint Committee on Administrative Rules plan to meet in Chicago on Tuesday to discuss the rules to implement the state's medical marijuana program, reports Becky Schlikerman at the Chicago Sun-Times.

If the committee agrees on the rules, the process to register patients, dispensers and growers can begin.

Patients who are approved by the state as having debilitating medical conditions qualifying for medical marijuana will be able to get identification cards beginning in September, according to Morgan, but the application process will be staggered.

Applications for those who want to sell or grow marijuana will be out around the same time, Morgan said.

State officials will likely have to winnow the applicants down; the business permits for locations throughout the state are limited to 60 for dispensaries and 21 for growers. Medical marijuana used in the program must be grown in Illinois, and will likely be ready for consumption in early 2015, Morgan said.

The state still doesn't know exactly how many patients will be participating, according to Morgan. "We do know that there are at least 100,000 to 200,000 patients that will be eligible just based on medical conditions," he said.

About 10,000 people will become registered as medical marijuana patients, estimates the D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, but that will likely take some time, according to legislative analyst Chris Lindsey.

Morgan said the state expects "at least tens of thousands in the first year."

The program might develop a little more quickly in Illinois than in some other states, Lindsey said. "A lot of people now know about medical marijuana," he said. "They've heard about this in Illinois."

The state could collect up to $1.8 million a year from the dispensary registration fee of $30,000, and $4.2 million a year from growers who will have to pay a stiff $200,000 fee for the annual permit (so much for Mom and Pop).

People who want to sell or grow cannabis will also have to pay a nonrefundable fee just to apply -- $5,000 for dispensaries and $25,000 for cultivation centers. Morgan expects the number of applicants to exceed the number of licenses available.

Cultivation centers will be required to pay a 7 percent privilege tax on marijuana sales.

But according to Lou Lang (D-Skokie), sponsor of the medical marijuana legislation, the money isn't the point.

"To me, this bill is about patients, not revenue," he said.