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Illinois Marijuana Patients Face New Hurdles

A vendor points out the variety of marijuana for sale at the grand opening of the Seattle location of the Northwest Cannabis Market, for sales of medical marijuana products, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013. The market hosts nine permanent vendors for seven-day-a-week sales, as well as a number of daily vendors of a variety dried medicines, edible products and starts. Voters in Washington state last fall passed Initiative 502, which legalizes the recreational possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and calls for the creation of state-licensed pot growers, processors and retail stores. Recreational marijuana sales are expected to begin late this year, and in the meantime, the state’s medical marijuana industry continues to operate. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Photo Elaine Thompson/AP


Illinois Marijuana Patients Face New Hurdles

In August 2013, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed HB 1 into law, legalizing medical marijuana in Illinois, which went into effect Jan.1, 2014. The governing departments were given four months from that date to finalize any changes or additions demanded at the city level. One such alteration by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Edward Burke may make finding medicine more difficult for approved medical marijuana patients.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Mayor Emanuel is seeking to approve further regulation on medical marijuana shops within city limits. According to the current state law, marijuana dispensaries are only allowed to operate in manufacturing zones 1,000 feet away from residences, schools or daycare centers. However, Emanuel and Alderman Burke are looking to approve additional restrictions, demanding centers must also be authorized for special use permits, requiring an OK of the city Zoning Board of Appeals.

Alderman Burke, a private practice attorney who has cost Chicago taxpayers millions of dollars in property tax litigation, criticizes the current laws, stating that little power was given to city officials allowing them to manage the new industry and condemning other states such as Colorado as “rife with abuse.”

Alderman Brendan Reilly countered by stating the limits on medical marijuana already restrict the medicine to patients “who need it most” and that comparisons to Colorado are unjustified.

The state law currently allows only 60 dispensaries to open across the state and only 22 growing centers, which must be at least 2,500 feet from any area zoned for residential use, schools or daycare centers.

Future medical marijuana centers will only allow doctor-approved medical patients, with written recommendations, to visit their facilities. Proponents believe that patients should have safe access under the law.

“If people are being prescribed these products by their doctors, will there be any burden in patients actually accessing those medicines, or do they have to drive to the edge of the city?” Said Bailey.

Additionally, as a pilot program, the new medical marijuana laws in Illinois are set to a “sunset” provision. This means that if the legislature does not renew the program, create new or alter and approve existing laws, the program will cease to operate in four years.

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