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Medical Marijuana Program Extension Now up to Governor Rauner

Posted on in Illinois attorney

medical, medical use, Illinois criminal defense attorneyDespite going into effect in January of 2014, the Illinois pilot program regarding the medical use of marijuana has yet to get off the ground. This week, the state Senate approved a measure that would extend the program for two more years so that a full evaluation of the effort’s viability can be conducted. The future of the extension, however, remains uncertain as Governor Bruce Rauner has not indicated that he is likely to sign the bill.

Pilot Program History

In 2014, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act took effect making the medical use of marijuana legal in the state for appropriately registered individuals with specified conditions. Registration for the program is handled by the state, as is licensing for approved marijuana dispensaries. Delays in licensing and other concerns, however, have left registered cardholders, numbering in excess of 2000 as of April 2015, unable to legally acquire marijuana.

The pilot program was created with a sunset provision that automatically would repeal the law on January 1, 2018, four years after it went into effect. The purpose of the program, initially, was to evaluate the effects and potential concerns of making such a law permanent in Illinois.

Extension Efforts

Multiple sources have reported that registered users in the state have yet to be able to acquire legal marijuana under the program. Some project that the first dispensaries will be able to start selling by later this fall, but many remain skeptical. Meanwhile, state lawmakers have approved a proposal to extend the pilot program back to its intended four-year length for several reasons.

First, the length of the program, according to proponents of the extension, was designed to give the effort an appropriate amount to time to make a measurable impact. Reducing its length by nearly half may skew the analysis, and in some ways, making the point of the program moot.

In addition, as Senator Bill Haine, D-Alton, pointed out, Illinois residents and would-be dispensary owners have invested time and resources into preparing their operations. Shortening the program could have a strong negative impact on their investments, and the state should give them enough time to work through the entire process.

Uncertainty Ahead

Earlier this year, Representative Lou Lang, D-Skokie, was successful in getting the extension measure through the State House by a vote of 81-28. With Seantor Haine’s sponsorship in the Senate, the bill passed this week with a 33-16 vote. The future of the extension is now in the hands of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, who has been skeptical of the need for lengthening the program. He has not, however, definitively stated that he would not sign the legislation.

While Springfield continues the debate over the medical use of marijuana, it is important for citizens to remember that crimes related to other drugs are as serious as they have ever been. Convictions for possession and distribution of heroin, cocaine, and other drugs can lead to severe penalties and impact that last a lifetime. If you have been charge with any type of drug crime, contact an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney today to schedule a free consultation.

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