Pubdate: Tue, 29 Dec 2015
Source: Rockford Register Star (IL)
Copyright: 2015 GateHouse Media, Inc.
Author: Dan Linn
Note: Dan Linn of Springfield Is the Executive Director of Illinois NORML.


The state of Illinois collected more than $5 million in fees from 
more than 350 applications for only 81 licenses to become a 
cultivator or distributor of medical cannabis.

Rural Illinois saw a surge of interest in creating new jobs and 
boosting some small-town economies. The reason for this interest is 
to grow and distribute a plant, but not the usual ones like corn, soy or wheat.

These small towns were approached by developers, investors and local 
entrepreneurs to try to get a shot at growing medical cannabis for 
the new pilot program in Illinois. However, because of the limited 
amount of licenses, some of these business ventures will never get 
the opportunity to build these multimillion dollar facilities and 
offer jobs to local residents.

The solution is to legalize and regulate this plant. Let adults 
consume cannabis responsibly and you'll see even more investors jump 
on this green rush that has taken over Colorado, Washington state and 
others, and is gaining a foothold in places in Illinois where other 
businesses must shut down because of the recession.

Illinois farmers are experts at growing corn and soy. There is no 
reason why they should be elbowed out of this business opportunity 
for those who have west coast experience of growing large-scale, 
high-quality cannabis operations.

The Medical Cannabis Pilot Program has offered a glimpse of what 
potential interest there is in bringing these investments and jobs to 
Illinois, but why should we stifle this opportunity when people need jobs now?

One thing to learn from this courtship of investors toward small 
communities is that you have to lower the barriers to entry into this 
market. Forcing licensees to have $500,000 in liquid assets doesn't 
help the small business owner get into this industry without seeking 
outside investments. So the better option would be to make more of 
these cultivation and dispensary licenses and make them more 
affordable to those who don't have millions of dollars already.

Also, expanding the list of qualifying medical conditions for the 
pilot program or just allowing adults to use this product will ensure 
the market demand is there. Once the product is legal for all adults 
there will be enough of a demand for plenty of producers to get in on 
the action. The combination of high barriers to entry and a highly 
restrictive medical program are only going to benefit a few.

Nevertheless, small communities struggling to keep Main Street alive 
should take note of this lifeline to create jobs and bring in 
businesses, because there are already people growing, selling and 
consuming cannabis illegally, so why not bring that industry out of 
the shadows and revitalize our rural economies?

It is hard to imagine that cannabis will still be illegal in five or 
10 years, so now is the time for Illinois to get ahead of the curve 
and show the rest of the country that we can produce the best 
cannabis, for medical or recreational purposes, in the country.

It is should be no surprise that if you take this industry out of the 
illegal sector and bring it above the table it will create jobs, tax 
revenue and a stimulus that politicians often campaign on but just 
can't seem to deliver.

Legalize it, tax it, regulate it, punish those who use it 
irresponsibly or in a way that endangers others and watch the jobs 
and revenue roll in from this booming industry.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom