Illinois expands medical marijuana market in advance of recreational launch

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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation adding new qualifying conditions, including chronic pain, to the state’s medical cannabis program, which likely will boost sales in advance of next year’s recreational MJ launch.

By signing the bill, the Democratic governor also makes the state’s MMJ program permanent, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Here are key details from the legislation:

  • MMJ qualifying conditions added are chronic pain, anorexia nervosa, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, osteoarthritis, anorexia nervosa, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Neuro-Behcet’s autoimmune disease, neuropathy, polycystic kidney disease and superior canal dehiscence syndrome. Chronic pain tends to be the leading driver for MMJ sales.
  • Nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants, like doctors, now can certify patients for the program.
  • The expansion gives added heft to a program that was bolstered substantially in late January when an opioid alternative pilot program kicked in. Former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed that legislation.

It’s unclear how the medical marijuana market in Illinois will be affected when recreational marijuana sales start next year, but MMJ programs generally decline as adult-use programs grow.

However, one factor that might help the state’s MMJ program is that there is only a 1% sales tax.

Buyers of rec cannabis products, on the other hand, can expect to pay a retail tax of 19.55%-34.75%, depending on the product’s potency, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

The Marijuana Business Factbook recently projected that the Illinois MMJ market would generate $200 million-$240 million in sales in 2019, up from $132.9 million in 2018.