In 2013, Illinois joined the ranks of states throughout the US where the medicinal use of cannabis is legal, and after a two year delay, approved patients may finally have safe, reliable access to medicine before the end of the year. Illinois medical cannabis program officials have announced, to the relief of many patients and families, that for the first time in the state’s history, legal medical sales are expected to begin in the next two weeks.
Final approval has only been given to four dispensaries in the metro Chicago area, but several more are expected to be licensed in the near future. The program’s director, Joseph Wright stated,
“A total of approximately 12 to 15 dispensaries should be registered by the end of November. Eight or 9 of those will be located in the Chicagoland area.”
Anticipating the first day of legal sales, some Illinois-grown cannabis has reportedly already been processed and packaged, but dispensaries are not permitted to sell anything until they have access to the state’s medical cannabis database. Access to the database is required in order for dispensaries to be able to verify each patients’ information and program approval status. Once access is granted, at least a few dispensaries will be ready to begin sales immediately.
Many of the medical cannabis patients in Illinois are expected to be inexperienced when it comes to using the plant, and because cannabis affects every person differently, many may have to go through a trial-and-error period before finding the best strains, amounts and methods of consumption to treat their condition. In an effort to reduce the trial-and-error period for patients and to share important information, one medical cannabis company in Illinois — Cresco Labs — has launched a $1 million campaign to help educate patients and non-patients alike.
While excitement levels are at an all-time high for medical cannabis patients and activists, there is also a darker underlying issue to be faced in Illinois. By the time medical cannabis is legally available for purchase, Illinois will be about halfway through the initial four-year pilot program. If Gov. Bruce Rauner does not reauthorize the Illinois cannabis program in 2017, it will expire and cease to exist. Earlier this year, Gov. Rauner vetoed expanding the program to include 11 more conditions.
Over two years after legalizing medical marijuana statewide, Maryland is beginning to take the next steps forward to push the program closer to finally regulating the sale of medical cannabis.
Since the initial legalization in 2013, the state is almost ready to begin issuing business licenses for cultivation centers and dispensaries. The set state regulations allow for 94 dispensaries, including two per state senate district. Products to be sold at these dispensaries will be grown throughout 15 facilities. Aside from growing at these 15 locations, they cannabis will be turned into medical products, such as pills and oil.
The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission will begin accepting applications this month, meaning that marijuana used for medical reasons will be available for purchase by the end of 2016.
The legalization has met backlash from elected officials, including Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh, who is proposing a ban on the production of cannabis and dispensaries within his county. Schuh said that the loose regulations on who can grow and purchase cannabis are creating what is basically a recreational cannabis system. The reselling of cannabis on the black market and potential dispensary robberies have led to Schuh’s stance against the program.
Throughout other areas of the state, Republican leaders are accepting the cannabis businesses in hopes of creating more job opportunities in their counties.
State laws approved over the last two years allow for private manufacturing of medical marijuana and retail shops, as long as the local zoning and planning laws are followed by the facilities.
The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services has publicly released the drafted rules for the U.S. territory to begin their own medical marijuana program.
Guam residents voted in favor of legalizing medical marijuana last November during the general election. The Guam Health Department is in charge of developing the rules and regulations for the medical program.
Over the past few months, Guam health officials have visited California and Arizona to learn from their medical marijuana systems. The officials have also communicated with community stakeholders to hear feedback and suggestions for the program.
Once the regulations are finalized, they will need final approval from the Legislature.
According to the proposed draft, potential patients must be suffering from at least one of the following conditions:
- Damage to nervous tissue of the spinal cord
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Terminally ill patients could qualify for medical marijuana as well, without dealing with one of the aforementioned illnesses. Minors, under the guidance of a caregiver, would also be allowed to partake in the medical marijuana program.
The draft proposes that a license to grow, possess or use marijuana would be required for all patients, caregivers, and cannabis businesses.