As one of the most recent states to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, Illinois has become a hotbed for controversy surrounding the establishment of rules to create and regulate cannabis dispensaries and medical recommendation system.
Many are aware of the limited number of diseases and conditions covered by the Illinois program –the most specific set of debilitating conditions of any medical marijuana state. Conditions that are covered include cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cachexia/wasting syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis and chronic pain, among others.
However, unlike many of the other states with medical cannabis laws, Illinois has sought the public’s input on rules and regulations set to be implemented once the program is fully functional.
Between now and February 27, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, the Department of Revenue, and the Department of Agriculture have each posted proposed rules set to regulate cannabis within their given agency, and it comes as no surprise that many of these rules have drawn both criticism and praise from the public.
As it is written now, qualified patients would be fingerprinted, be subject to a background check and pay an annual fee of $150. Many states have similar fees associated with medical cannabis and some are even more expensive than $150.
There are two areas from the proposed regulations that have stirred up controversy. According to the Chicago Tribune “For dispensaries to sell the pot, state officials proposed a $5,000 nonrefundable application fee, proof of $400,000 in assets, a $30,000 permit fee and a yearly permit renewal fee of $25,000. For cultivation centers, the Department of Agriculture proposed a $25,000 nonrefundable application fee, $250,000 in liquid assets, payment of $200,000 upon approval of a permit and a renewal fee of $100,000.”
Reactions have been mixed when it comes to these six-figure fees. On one hand, these excessively high fees will only attract serious players to the Illinois medical cannabis industry.
Conversely, marijuana advocates like Chris Lindsey, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, has noted that these excessive fees may eventually translate into higher costs for patients.
“The costs appear excessive for cultivation centers,” Lindsey said. “I would hope regulators will consider what negative impacts these fees would have.”
Another area of controversy within these newly proposed guidelines is a requirement for patients and caregivers who apply for a medical marijuana card to give up their second amendment right to bear arms, even if they currently own a firearm or possess a concealed carry permit.
According to the Centre Daily Times, “the Illinois Department of Public Health referred questions about the issue to the Illinois State Police. Monique Bond, a state police spokeswoman, cited the federal Gun Control Act and the state’s Firearm Owners Identification Card Act as the legal basis for the wording in the draft rules.
“We are bound by federal law,” Bond said in an email.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives interprets marijuana use to include possession and argues that “this means all persons (patients and caregivers) are prohibited from gun ownership.”
This statute is bound to be challenged in the courts since every other state that has medical marijuana is theoretically breaking the same law. If you’re interested in voicing your opinion on these proposed rules you can find contact information for the Illinois Medical Marijuana Pilot Program here.