Almost two years ago, Illinois voters passed a law that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to begin to open their doors in Illinois, as long as they follow the proper rules and regulations. This includes applying for the proper licenses and filing the application with the state. This law is known as the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program and is designed to allow businesses to begin selling medical marijuana legally to qualifying sick persons. The passage of the law comes during the most recent shift in thoughts and stances on the marijuana debate, where the drug is becoming more widely accepted for its medicinal properties.
Currently there are major issues with the opening of dispensaries across the state. Since the law went into effect on January 1st, 2014, no dispensaries have opened in Illinois. One of the reasons for this is due to the recent shift in power in the office of the governor. Former Governor Pat Quinn was presiding at the time of the passage of the law. Although Quinn signed the bill into law, he did not approve or deny any applications. But, in the 2014 gubernatorial election, Bruce Rauner was elected the new Illinois Governor and has greatly impacted the futures of the marijuana dispensary applicants. This switching of power has delayed any openings of dispensaries across the state, where as applicants are well prepared to open to the public. Earlier this year, Rauner approved some applications and denied others, which will start the process of opening for those that were approved. In May, a bill passed through the House and the Senate that would extend the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program past 2018, which was its original expiration, since no dispensaries have opened with the program nor has any marijuana been grown for medical purpose or sale. Rauner has not yet signed the bill into law.
With medical marijuana becoming more supported, many investors are looking to open up dispensaries in Chicago’s market. This has the citizens of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs concerned for the safety of the neighborhoods and the consequences that come with the opening of the dispensaries. Many question whether the presence of these dispensaries will damage the reputations of the neighborhoods and increase crime. But, many of the dispensaries that plan to open have stated that will have increased security for their premises and that no one without a license will be able to enter the facilities at all. The dispensary applicants believe this is a misunderstanding by those living in the neighborhoods who believe the marijuana will be available for anyone. Dispensary applicants and owners are confident that they will not pose a threat to the neighborhood’s safety at all.
Those applicants that have been approved for their license will be set to open their doors in the fall or winter months of this year and begin distributing their products. But the medical marijuana dispensary law passage does not mean that marijuana is legal for recreational use in the state of Illinois as it is in Colorado or Washington. In Illinois, possession of marijuana still holds penalties, though they are less severe than they have been in the past. The drug has only been approved for qualifying persons who have applied for a license and have been prescribed marijuana by their doctor. These persons must have one of the 41 different diseases that allow marijuana to be prescribed for medical use.
As always, if you have any questions about the changes in the marijuana laws from the past few years, or if you have gotten into trouble with law enforcement for anything cannabis-related, please contact us and one of our LauraLaw’s skilled attorneys will be happy to assist you.