The Illinois Senate has passed a bill legalizing the cultivation, sale and use of marijuana for medical reasons, a watershed development that puts the state on the cusp of joining the MMJ club.
The fate of medical cannabis in Illinois now rests in the hands of Gov. Pat Quinn, who has not indicated whether he will sign the measure but previously said that he is “open-minded” on the issue. Promisingly, the state’s lieutenant governor recently came out in support of the bill, which could help tip the scales in favor of the bill for Quinn.
If the governor signs off on the measure, Illinois would become the 20th state in the nation with medical marijuana laws, coming on the heels of Maryland’s move last month to approve a very strict and limited MMJ bill.
Illinois would also become one of the most promising new medical cannabis markets in terms of business opportunities. The bill calls for a four-year pilot program that would allow as many as 60 dispensaries to open up across Illinois – nearly double the allowable number in Massachusetts, which recently passed a medical marijuana law and has attracted a ton of attention from entrepreneurs. The Illinois medical marijuana law also paves the way for up to 22 licensed cultivation centers to launch.
Patients with one of several dozen qualifying medical conditions – including cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDs, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries – could receive an MMJ card with the recommendation of their doctor. Once approved and registered with the program, they could buy up to 2.5 ounces of usable cannabis every 14 days.
With a population of around 13 million, the state would likely have tens of thousands of registered patients – or possibly much more if additional medical conditions are added to the list.
Under the bill, the state would essentially regulate and oversee the entire MMJ program. As part of these responsibilities, it would conduct a background check on patients, caregivers and those who apply for cultivation and dispensary licenses.
“We applaud the Illinois Legislature for taking action and adopting this widely supported and much-needed legislation,” Dan Riffle – deputy director of government relations for the Washington DC-based Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbies for the reform of cannabis laws – said in a statement. “The final product is a comprehensive and tightly controlled system that will allow individuals with serious illnesses to safely and legally access medical marijuana with their doctors’ supervision.”
The measure – House Bill 1 – cleared the Senate by a 35-21 margin, an impressive victory for a controversial issue. The House, which had previously snubbed out cannabis-related bills, passed the current version of the bill last month.