Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign into law today a measure that would legalize medical marijuana in Illinois. The bill, which would take effect in January, calls to the creation of a pilot program in which qualifying patients would be able to use up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana on a biweekly basis. To qualify for the program, patients would have to obtain a note from their doctor and must be diagnosed with at least one of a number of qualifying medical conditions.
The bill would allow for the establishment of 60 dispensaries regulated by the state, and 22 cultivation centers where cannabis plants may be grown for medical marijuana purposes. It is estimated that there will be plenty of folks seeking licenses to grow or dispense marijuana under the new measure, despite the possibility of federal prosecution and the costs of setting a dispensary up.
If the bill is signed, Illinois will join 20 other states that currently permit the use of medical marijuana. The big worry with legalized marijuana, whether for medical or recreational use, is that it is still illegal under federal law, regardless of whether states permit it. The Obama administration has said in the past that it has no intention of targeting those who abide by state laws. In some cases, though, those who have been growing medical cannabis under state supervision have been prosecuted by the federal government and incarcerated.
Illinois’ law is quite restrictive compared to other states that have medical marijuana programs, but the concerns of federal involvement still remain.
Source: State Journal Register, “Medical marijuana entrepreneurs still interested despite challenges,” Dean Olsen, July 31, 2013.