Illinois Medical Marijuana Pilot Program Still Not Fully Underway

medical marijuana, Illinois law, Illinois Criminal Defense AttorneyDespite being legal since January 1, 2014, not a single Illinois resident has been able to obtain marijuana for approved medical purposes yet. After more than a year of administrative delays, the state government has indicated that the program should be up and running by the end of the summer. Lawmakers and citizens alike are understandably skeptical, and a measure recently passed both the state House and Senate that would extend the program back to its intended length.

The Medical Marijuana Program

In August of 2013, then-Governor Pat Quinn signed into law the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, set to take effect at the beginning of the following year. The Act was aimed at determining the effectiveness of marijuana in helping patients with specified medical conditions while monitoring the impact of the drug’s medical use throughout the state. Included in the law was a sunset provision, intended to automatically end the pilot program on January 1, 2018, limiting its lifespan to four years.

Registration and Licensing

In order to qualify under the program, an Illinois citizen is required to register with the state and provide documentation of an approved medical condition. Under the Act, these conditions included cancer, glaucoma, Multiple Sclerosis, Hepatitis C, and many others. Additionally, since the program’s introduction, efforts have continued to add more conditions to the approved list, most recently considering the addition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. More than 3,000 residents have applied for registration thus far, with approximately 2,500 approvals being issued.

The delay in the program’s implementation, however, has been blamed on bureaucracy surrounding the licensing approval for growers and dispensaries of medical marijuana. Multiple lawsuits concerning the coveted licenses have been filed, slowing the process. There is hope, however, that as growers’ first legal crop matures, that registered patients will be able to legally purchase medical marijuana later this year.

Proposed Extension

State Representative Lou Lang, D-Skokie, sponsored legislation that has made its way through both the House and Senate regarding the length of the pilot program. Rep. Lang has been insistent that the program’s intended length is important to its efficacy, and due to the delays, the sunset provision should be extended. Beyond studying the feasibility of medical marijuana, Lang and other sponsors also point the investments being made by dispensary owners and growers who stand to lose a great deal if the program ends after 2017.

Governor Bruce Rauner will now have to decide if he will sign the extension. Critics have noted that Rauner has been rather skeptical of any measure related to marijuana, and was opposed the program initially. His position has caused supporting lawmakers such as Lang to take steps toward overriding a potential veto, should such action be necessary.

Help With Your Drug Case

The debate over marijuana is likely to continue in Springfield well into the future. However, since obtaining the drug legally is not currently possible, those who continue to buy, use, or sell it may be subject to criminal penalties under the current law. If you have been charged with a crime related to the possession of marijuana, you need a lawyer who will fight for you. Contact an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney today and get the help you need from a team who understands your rights.

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