Pubdate: Fri, 12 Jul 2013
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2013 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Robert McCoppin
Page: 1


Entrepreneurs and Patients Hope Governor Signs Bill As Officials Try
to Sort Out Regulation Possibilities

Local leaders in far northwest suburban Huntley were taken aback when
a man showed up at a Village Board meeting last month and announced he
wants to open aware house in town to grow marijuana.

"Did you bring any samples?" one of the trustees joked.

Samuel Franzmann has no background in the medical marijuana business.
But the Batavia man, who works in information technology for an
orthopedics clinic, said he has run a small business before, has
investors and is very serious.

Jokes aside, village officials in Huntley were decidedly less

"At this point, the village doesn't have any interest in the
proposal," Village Manager Dave Johnson said. "There are no
regulations in place as we sit here to accommodate the use. ... The
likelihood of it ending up here - there may be better spots

A measure that would bring medical marijuana to Illinois is a
signature away from becoming law, and Gov. Pat Quinn has indicated
he's "very open minded" about the concept.

And though the proposed law wouldn't take effect until Jan. 1 - with
further delays likely as various regulatory issues are sorted out -
would-be entrepreneurs in state, as well as those who operate
medicinal marijuana businesses in the 19 states where it's legal, are
already angling to get in on the potential new market. A measure to
legalize medical marijuana in Illinois is close to becoming law. Gov.
Pat Quinn has indicated he is "open-minded" about the concept.

That has left some communities scrambling to figure out-sometimes
grudgingly - how to accommodate marijuana dispensaries or cultivation
operations in their towns, should anyone seek to open them. Legalized
pot could also have implications for local police departments, whose
officers would have to make new distinctions between those who could
legally possess pot and the rest of the populace for whom it would
remain illegal.

Experts say the law may have a host of consequences, intended and
otherwise, for residents, customers, businesses and police, that will
have to be worked out through regulation and, in some cases, litigation.

If the bill as written becomes law, adults who have one of more than
40 specific "debilitating medical conditions" - cancer, multiple
sclerosis or severe fibromyalgia among them-could legally buy up to
2.5 ounces of marijuana every twoweeks.

The proposal would allow for 22 enclosed marijuana growing warehouses
and 60 marijuana dispensaries to be geographically distributed around
Illinois. State agencies would issue patient identification cards and
would license and regulate the grow facilities and

Local governments would not be able to ban such facilities outright
but could pass zoning regulations to restrict where they could go.

In anticipation of the law, the Lake County Municipal League plans a
seminar July 18 addressing how to handle the issue. Several suburbs,
including Barrington, Buffalo Grove, Carpentersville, Deerfield,
Highland Park and Libertyville, have taken preliminary steps to
determine where marijuana facilities could locate.

Grayslake and Mundelein officials plan to hold public hearings within
120 days of the law going into effect to determine how to square
marijuana facilities with the village's zoning code.

Fox Lake took steps to limit marijuana facilities to its manufacturing
areas, away from the downtown and residential areas.

"No one on the board is opposed to medical marijuana," Mayor Donny
Schmit said. "Everybody knows someone who's had cancer or suffered eye
disease. We just wanted an area where (suspicious) traffic would be

Any such facility would be a special use, meaning officials could add
specific requirements, like extra security or cameras, as they did
with a gun shop in the village.

The proposed Illinois law would limit access to medical marijuana to
patients 18 and older. Marijuana facilities would have to be at least
1,000 feet from schools, and smoking marijuana would be forbidden in
public places and motor vehicles.

Andy Duran, executive director of the nonprofit Linking Efforts
Against Drugs, doesn't believe that goes far enough in preventing new
avenues for teens' access. He has lobbied Lake Forest and Lake Bluff
to restrict marijuana facilities to the outskirts of town.

"Do you want your home next to a marijuana dispensary?" he said. "I
wouldn't. At least our communities would be protected to the fullest
extent we can."

However the zoning issues play out, marijuana regulators and advocates
in Colorado say the Illinois law is far more restrictive and avoids
many of the problems that came up there after the medical pot business
took off in 2009.

Lewis Koski, chief of investigations for Colorado's Marijuana
Enforcement Division, said it would be much easier for Illinois to
enforce regulations on a limited number of preapproved facilities,
rather than the hundreds of dealers that sprang up without regulation
after Colorado voters approved medical marijuana.

And limiting patients to those with a legitimate doctor-patient
relationship and specific medical conditions should eliminate the
catchall "chronic pain" diagnosis that opened the floodgates to use in
California and Colorado.

"It sounds to me like Illinois is doing a lot of things right," Koski
said. "If you want to legalize medical marijuana, it sounds like
they've made some really good decisions on the front end."

On the business end, prospective entrepreneurs are hoping to cash in
on the "green rush" in Illinois.

The National Cannabis Industry Association will hold a Midwest
CannaBusiness Symposium in Chicago in August. Admission will cost $375
at the door and include a networking reception to bring together
investors and people with marijuana-growing experience.

Kayvan Khalatbari, founder and co-owner of the medical marijuana firm
Denver Relief, will speak at the symposium. His firm is acting as a
consultant to businesses in Illinois, and he figures it will take at
least $1 million too pen a production warehouse.

Khalatbari predicted Illinois will need more grow centers. He
estimated the 22 proposed centers would be overloaded by serving
almost 12,000 patients each.

Faced with the possibility of enforcing the new law, police and others
have warned of unwanted consequences. While the Illinois State Police
took no position on the proposal, the Illinois Association of Chiefs
of Police and the Illinois Sheriffs' Association oppose the measure,
which they estimate will lead to 250,000 users.

In a letter to the governor, the policing groups said the proposal
would prevent convictions for driving violations based on blood tests
for medical marijuana cardholders and would instead force police to
find the driver was impaired based on a field sobriety test, which
they say would make officers' jobs harder.

The sponsor of the bill to legalize medicinal pot, state Rep. Lou
Lang, a Democrat from Skokie, said blood tests may pick up residual
marijuana from days or weeks before, which may mean the driver is not
still impaired, so the proposed law would make field sobriety tests
mandatory. Drivers who refuse the test could lose their licenses.

Law-enforcement groups have also questioned the 2.5- ounce biweekly
pot maximum allowable under the Illinois proposal. They say that's
more than is needed for medical purposes and worry that the surplus
will end up in the illegal street market.

While the debate rages on, patients are anxiously hoping that the
governor signs the bill into law.

Katherine Rasmussen, of north suburban Hainesville, a former
parent-teacher organization president who said she is undergoing
chemotherapy for lupus and multiple sclerosis, has tried numerous
medications and said marijuana is the only thing that helps her keep
food down.

In May, she was charged with misdemeanor possession of cannabis while
trying to enter a Waukegan courthouse for a hearing involving a former
PTO officer.

"I have a whole bunch of legal prescription drugs that are much worse
for my body," Rasmussen said. "But if you get caught with the tiniest
bit of marijuana, they treat you like a common criminal."

Jim Champion, a 46year-old veteran with multiple sclerosis who lives
in Somonauk, about 65 miles southwest of downtown Chicago, spoke on
behalf of the bill to lawmakers in Springfield.

He said traditional medications like morphine and Valium knocked him
out in the middle of conversations, stole his appetite and left him
like a "zombie." He maintains that marijuana has stopped the
trembling, pain and constrictions in his limbs, and helped him eat

Champion looks forward to the day his wife, Sandy, doesn't have to buy
his supply on the street in dicey locations.

"Many people much sicker than myself are depending on this," he said.
"It's an exclusive club, but one you don't want to be in." Tribune
reporters Dan Waters and Michael Holtz contributed.
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