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What Entrepreneurs Need to Know About the Illinois Medical Marijuana Pilot Program

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Since the Illinois state government’s approval of medical marijuana in 2013, both patients and entrepreneurs have been wondering when marijuana dispensaries can begin operating. A year later, dispensaries and marijuana cultivation centers have not yet been opened, but in the next year such businesses should be able to operate in Illinois. Earlier in July, Illinois lawmakers approved rules that will allow licensed dispensers to distribute medical marijuana to patients by next spring.

Entrepreneurs in Illinois are chomping at the bit regarding all of the potential opportunities that could come with the growing and selling of medical marijuana. However, the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (MCPP) is considered to be one of the more restrictive medical marijuana programs in the country. In fact, the law that made medical marijuana legal in Illinois is only in effect for four years, which means that the legislature will have the option of cancelling or reinstating the program in 2018. Thus, entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on the MCPP must understand the specifics of the Illinois laws and regulations for the lawful distribution of medical marijuana.

The Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program

From the very beginning, Illinois has warned the public that the complete implementation of the MCPP would be a gradual process. For the last year, the Illinois Department of Public Health, as well as similar state agencies, have been holding both public and private hearings to present and discuss the proposed regulations for the MCPP and the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Patient Registry. These registry rules will eventually be the guidelines to govern which patients will be allowed to receive a medical marijuana license.

The state of Illinois has stated that it will still be illegal for any person in the state to possess, grow or offer to provide medical marijuana until the MCPP is up and running and licenses to use and dispense marijuana have been issued. This fact is the most important thing for entrepreneurs to remember. Though entrepreneurs could begin to seek out contacts for marijuana plants and other resources for a running a dispensary or cultivation center, they should not be soliciting clients or distributing marijuana. In fact, the Illinois Attorney General has recommended that people who have received solicitations to purchase medical marijuana should report these solicitors to the Consumer Protection Division of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

Entrepreneurs must also be aware of the fact that under federal law, marijuana is still classified as an addictive illegal drug that does not have federal approval for medical use. Because federal law reigns supreme over all states in the U.S., Illinois law does not trump federal laws regarding marijuana. However, federal prosecutors have provided clear guidance that they will not prosecute or otherwise target people who comply with state laws regarding medical marijuana.

Entrepreneurs should be able to apply for licenses this September. License approvals will provide entrepreneurs with the right to grow and sell medical marijuana. Furthermore, patients will be able to apply for medical ID cards this fall. Those with last names that start with letters A through L can apply for cards in September and October, and those with last names that begin in M through Z will be eligible to apply for ID cards in November and December.

These patients must be certified by a physician for having a qualifying medical condition that is covered by the MCPP. Relevant medical conditions include multiple sclerosis, cancer and HIV. Medical marijuana licenses will be awarded under a point system. The plan is to award 21 licenses for marijuana cultivation centers, and 60 licenses will be awarded to dispensaries. The point system will consider the entrepreneurs’ dispensary business plan, as well as their ability and security to successfully grow crops at their cultivation.

If you are looking for legal advice and protections for your small business, it is in your best interests to secure the services of of a legal professional immediately. Contact the Illinois small business law attorneys here at the Gierach Law Firm in Naperville, Illinois today.

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