Illinois Becomes 20th State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

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On August 1, Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Illinois medical marijuana SB 1381 into law. The “Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act” takes effect on January 1, 2014. Illinois will join 19 other states, which have legalized medical marijuana, but SB 1381 carries strict guidelines.

The Illinois medical marijuana law sets up a 4-year Pilot Program. The state will allow 22 growers, one for each state police district and 60 dispensaries spread out across the state. All growers and dispensaries will be charged a 7 percent “privilege tax” and background checks will be required of all employees at the facilities. Illinois medical marijuana patients will not be allowed to grow marijuana in their homes.

Who Qualifies for Medical Marijuana in Illinois?

The law gives way to patients with any of the 33 qualifying conditions to register with the Illinois Department of Public Health to apply for the legal status of a medical marijuana patient. Some of the qualifying medical conditions include: cancer, HIV/AIDS, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and lupus. Once registered, a patient will be able to purchase up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks from a dispensary. Each dispensary will set a price for the drug and all medical marijuana will be subject to a 1 percent sales tax.

Restrictions on Possession and Consumption

Registered patients may not be arrested or face criminal charges for engaging in the medical use of marijuana in compliance with the law. However, there are restrictions where registered medical marijuana patients can possess and consume the drug. Medical marijuana is strictly banned in places such as public areas, school grounds and in the presence of minors (persons under 18 years of age). Employers may continue to enforce their drug-free workplace policies and not allow employees to work while they are in possession or under the influence of medical marijuana. The drug is also banned from vehicles unless it is in a sealed, tamper-evident container that is not accessible while the vehicle is in motion. Registered patients can still face drugged-driving charges should they violate the boundaries of the law.

Medical Marijuana Will Not be Available January 1, 2014

Even though the law takes effect on January 1, it could be months before a patient in Illinois will be able to purchase and consume medical marijuana. This comes with no surprise, as the Illinois medical marijuana law will be one of the sternest in the country due to Illinois’ illegal marijuana possession statistics. According to a study conducted by the ALCU, in 2010 Illinois had the 5th highest arrest rate in the country for marijuana possession. Among those statistics, Cook County, which includes Chicago, recorded 33,000 arrests for possession of marijuana, more than any other county in the country. If you have any questions regarding the legal consumption of medical marijuana or a patient’s rights under the law, contact Glasgow & Olsson today.