John Roska: On medical marijuana and Illinois

John Roska: On medical marijuana and Illinois

Q: When will medical marijuana actually be available in Illinois?

A: Soon, but not yet. Probably early to mid-2015.

Some applicants have apparently been approved, and have received the "registry identification card" that certifies they're a "qualifying patient" who can use medical marijuana.

And applications for the other two parts of the system — to be a "registered dispensing organization" or a "registered cultivation center" — have been filed. But none has been approved yet.

Some applicants will have to be approved, then a cultivation center will have to grow some product. Growing time is reportedly four months. Only then will medical marijuana actually be available for consumption.

The Department of Public Health began taking applications to be a card-carrying "qualifying patient" on Sept. 2 — but only for last names beginning A through L. By early October, 6,300 people had applied.

Last names starting M through Z can apply Nov. 1 through Dec. 31.

It costs $100 to apply, or $50 if you get disability benefits from Social Security.

Public Health has 30 days to approve or deny completed applications. Although the law says cards must be issued within 15 days of approval, Public Health's website just says "cards will be mailed before dispensaries open."

The law requires cardholders to buy their medical marijuana from a "registered dispensing organization." The state says it'll license a total of 60.

Those dispensaries must get their marijuana from a "registered cultivation center." There will be 22 of those — one per state police district.

Applications for dispensaries and cultivation centers were taken from Sept. 8 through 22. The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation got 214 applications to be a dispensary, at a nonrefundable $5,000 per application.

In District 10, covering Champaign County, there were eight applicants.

The Department of Agriculture got 159 applications to be a cultivation center. Those cost $25,000 each, and actual licenses will be $200,000 for the first year. District 10 had 11 applicants.

The Agriculture Department hasn't said when it will start approving or denying applications — just that it "will greatly depend on the amount of applications the department receives."

Cards will apparently designate the dispensary where a cardholder must buy marijuana. The weekly limit of 2.5 ounces is strictly for personal use. Cardholders can't share or exchange with other cardholders, and can't grow their own.

When medical marijuana is actually available, cardholders can consume it on private property, as long is it's not a day care center. They can't possess or use it on a school bus, on school grounds or in a correctional facility.

The regulations also say medical marijuana can't be used in "any public place," but then go on to say just not in "any public place where an individual could reasonably be expected to be observed by others."

Cardholders also can't smoke medical marijuana where smoking is legally prohibited. There, they could consume "cannabis-infused products," like brownies, which are specifically permitted by the regulations.

John Roska is a lawyer with Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. You can send your questions to The Law Q&A, 302 N. First St., Champaign, IL 61820. Questions may be edited for space.

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