Pubdate: Tue, 15 Jul 2014
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2014 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Robert McCoppin, Tribune reporter


Lawmakers are expected to finalize rules for medical marijuana in
Illinois today, allowing people to start applying to be legal users as
soon as September, officials said.

Interested patients should start talking to their doctors now about
qualifying for the drug, Illinois Department of Revenue spokeswoman
Sue Hofer said. If the industry develops in Illinois as expected,
patients likely would be able to buy their first ounces of legal
"weed" by the spring of next year.

The rules governing how medical marijuana can be grown, sold and used
were proposed this spring by the state agencies involved in overseeing
agriculture, financial and professional regulations, health and revenue.

State Sen. Don Harmon, the co-chairman of the legislative panel that
will make the final review of the rules, State Sen. Don Harmon, said
he did not expect any major changes changes when the current draft of
the rules goes before the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.

"Other than some minor refinements, I'm not aware of any need for
dramatic action," he said.

People may qualify to obtain marijuana for medicinal use if they have
a doctor's diagnosis for one of about three dozen specified medical
conditions, such as cancer, HIV, Crohn's disease, lupus and multiple
sclerosis. There is not a general provision to treat pain, which is a
popular qualifying condition elsewhere, but complex regional pain
syndrome is one qualifying condition.

Like prospective owners and employees of medical marijuana businesses,
patients must submit fingerprints for a background check.

Members of the Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbies to end
marijuana prohibition, estimated Illinois will have about 10,000
qualified patients, based on the experience in other states. Illinois
has one of the most restrictive medical marijuana laws in the country,
but has one of the largest populations among states with medical
marijuana laws.

The pro-marijuana group continues to protest what it says are high
fees proposed for starting a medical marijuana business in Illinois,
such as $200,000 for a license to grow the crop, and a $2 million
surety bond. Ultimately, patients will have to pay those fees,
legislative analyst Chris Lindsey said.

"That's ludicrous," Lindsey said. "It's simply a way to close the door
on small and medium-sized businesses."

State officials have said high entry fees are needed to ensure that
business operators have enough capital to start and maintain a complex

Licensing fees for the 21 cultivation centers and 60 dispensaries
would generate up to $6 million to be used to implement the program,
according to the rules and the governor's office.  
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