Bill to Legalize Recreational Marijuana Introduced in Illinois

Bill to Legalize Recreational Marijuana Introduced in Illinois

The medical marijuana program has not yet been able to get off the ground in Illinois after former Governor Pat Quinn failed to meet the end-of-the-year deadline for awarding producer and retailer licenses to applicants. The program was in limbo for some time, as it was unclear whether the new Governor, Bruce Rauner, would move forward with the permitting process.

More than 14,000 patients had already applied to the registry and 1,000 of those patients had already been approved. Without licensing growers and dispensaries, these registered patients do not have safe, reliable access to medicine. At the beginning of February, however, the state began issuing medical marijuana licenses to producers and retailers. Two licenses have been awarded so far.

Still, these hiccups in the establishment of the medical marijuana program have not halted the drive for marijuana policy reform in The Prairie State. One lawmaker aims to legalize the recreational possession and cultivation for adults 21 years of age and older. Senator Michael Noland filed Senate Bill 0753 on February 3.

This proposal would allow adults to possess up to 30 grams, which is just over 1 ounce, of cannabis for recreational purposes. This legislation would also allow for up to 5 marijuana plants to be cultivated at home.

Dan Linn, the executive director of Illinois’s branch of NORML, pointed out that this is a huge step for lawmakers, as it has been nearly 40 years since legalization was last addressed.

“This is the first bill that would remove all criminal penalties for small amounts of cannabis and cannabis plants. The last bill that was introduced like this was in the 1970’s.”

Although many states have been predicted to pass legalization amendments in 2016 and 2020, Illinois has not been near the top of those lists. Even if the legislation does not pass this time around, it is a step to encourage politicians and voters alike to begin thinking about legalization and discussing all possible outcomes. Illinois lawmakers do have the unique opportunity to become the first legislature to pass a recreational legalization amendment because of this proposal.

Legislators in Connecticut, New Mexico and Vermont are also in similar situations this session. The New Mexico Senate actually just passed their state’s recreational legalization amendment on to the House for another vote.

It will be interesting to see if any of these states make history in 2015 as the first legislative body to approve a recreational marijuana legalization proposal.

photo credit: weed portal

Illinois Medical Marijuana Still in Major Limbo

Illinois Medical Marijuana Still in Major Limbo

The switch from Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, to his successor Bruce Rauner, has caused the licensing of the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries to get lost in the shuffle.

While in office, Quinn made lists of the dispensaries that would receive medical marijuana licenses. The problem is Quinn’s administration inexplicably delayed the actual issuing of these licenses. He promised to issue the licenses by the end of 2014, but let his constituents down when he left office with the issue unresolved.

What makes this such a big issue is Quinn publicly stated the reason he didn’t issue the licenses was because the evaluation agencies didn’t finish the application process. Leaked emails showed there was more to the story.

Emails between people within the administration show the agencies were ready to go with a list of recipients for 18 cultivation licenses and 56 retail licenses. What’s odd is that Quinn’s administration cut the list down from 18 to 12 potential recipients, in one of the leaked emails.

One disturbing piece of information in these emails is the fact that political favoritism seems to have played a part in the final decision process. One example cited by the Associate Press, shows that a former staff member of Quinn’s administration was hired by an applicant as a lobbyist, and this applicant was mysteriously disqualified, without explanation, even though they met all of the score requirements.

This has caused an uproar on the other side of the coin. Medical marijuana advocates are outraged by the delay. They blame selfish image management as one of the main reasons Quinn didn’t follow through with his promises. It makes sense, as being a governor that enacts medical marijuana policy is a bold political move. This is a big issue for patients to be worried about. Every politician is image-conscious, so what is going to make the Republican Bruce Rauner want to risk alienating himself from a segment of his party by enacting his predecessor’s policy. With that being said, it is a selfish move which has severe consequences on patients.

Most of these advocates are potential patients or know potential patients, so they speak from first hand experience on how this delay is affecting the citizens of Illinois. Patients with serious illnesses like cancer and AIDS are being denied supplemental treatment which is, in most cases, the only thing that makes their symptoms and pharmaceutical-caused side effects manageable. These patients are forced to continue seeking medical marijuana on the black market, putting themselves at risk for the sake of a politician’s image.

Rauner’s administration has said Quinn’s policy would need a comprehensive review until any of the selected applicants are issued licenses. This vague answer has potential patients realizing the sobering reality that dispensaries still may be months away. The beginning of Rauner’s term is staged to be quite interesting, with the medical marijuana issue serving as a defining moment for potential re-election.

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