The Illinois budget crisis has led to the disbandment of the state’s medical cannabis law enforcement team. Illinois State Police reportedly ceased payment to the seven investigators at the end of June. Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and the largely Democratic legislature continue to disagree over a budget that should have been implemented on July 1.
ISP spokesperson Matt Boerwinkle stated that the force will use current staff members to check on cultivation facilities until contract renewal. The original team of law enforcement officials included retired state troopers and supervisors and a former deputy police chief. Each team member was paid $25 per hour to inquire into possible violations committed by medicinal cannabis sellers and farmers. The team’s other duties included inspecting security systems, reviewing permit applications and educating other police officials about the medical cannabis program.
This structure fostered criticism as it contradicted Gov. Rauner’s pledge for reform as well as his objection to “double-dipping” for public employees. The Chicago Sun-Times stated that the team members made close to $52,000 annually as members of the medical marijuana oversight unit in addition to receiving state pensions averaging $8,000 monthly.
For their services, the officials received $158,000 last year according to state records. The administration maintains the payment structure actually saved money. The medical marijuana program director, Joseph Wright, said,
“Using contractual workers over current ISP officers helps control costs because it ensures current staffing levels are not strained, which could lead to additional overtime.”