Republican candidate for Illinois governor Bruce Rauner announced earlier this week that, if he had been in office, he would have vetoed Illinois' new law, which allows seriously ill patients access to medical cannabis. Rauner also said he preferred a system that would make business licenses available only to the highest bidders in order to raise money for state coffers.
Governor Quinn, who signed the medical marijuana bill in 2013, took exception to the comments, pointing out that the process is both competitive and transparent. His campaign called Rauner’s statements “heartless” and stressed that the law "will ease pain and provide relief for cancer patients (and) severely ill people."
Rep. Lou Lang, who sponsored the current law, noted that Illinois’ program is among the most tightly-controlled in the country. He also stated that “[t]he whole notion that Mr. Rauner would veto the bill, the notion that it would go to the highest bidder, is just callous, and flies in the face of logic.”
Rauner’s opposition to the current law stands in contrast to most Republican lawmakers, who joined Democrats earlier this year to extend the program to allow individuals with seizure conditions to qualify for access. His statements are particularly important because the winner of this election will be in office in 2017 — when the current program expires. In order for seriously ill patients to continue to have access, a new law will need to be passed.
On Sunday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that will add seizure conditions to Illinois’ medical cannabis program for both adults and minors. The new law also allows parents to seek permission for minors to access medical marijuana for other qualifying conditions. Special thanks are owed to bill sponsors Sen. Iris Martinez and Rep. Lou Lang, and the many parents and advocates who tirelessly worked to make the bill a reality for seriously ill patients.
In other news, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules gave its final approval last week for regulations the three state agencies will use to oversee the program. A preliminary version of these rules can be found here, with the official version to be published soon. This important step finally allows the program to move forward. News outlets are currently reporting that patients may be able to sign up as early as September, although it is not yet clear when dispensaries and cultivation centers will be operational.
The rules are far from perfect. The Illinois program is by far the most expensive in the nation for cultivators, with a non-refundable application fee of $25,000, and a first-year license of $200,000. That means the Department of Agriculture will receive a windfall of $4.4 million for issuing just 22 cultivation center licenses during the first year of the program, not including application fees. Unfortunately, the enormous tab will surely be passed along to patients.
In another historic victory for patients, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) just signed MPP’s medical marijuana bill into law. This makes Illinois the 20th state to allow safe and legal access to medical marijuana!
The measure was approved in the Senate (35-21) on May 17 and in the House (61-57) on April 17. It was endorsed by the Illinois Nurses Association and the Illinois State Bar Association, and more than 270 doctors from across the state signed on to a statement in support of safe access to medical marijuana for patients with serious illnesses.
We put nearly 10 years of hard work into passing this bill. MPP deployed staffers to testify at hearings, hired lobbyists in the state capital, provided grants to local activist organizations, aired TV and radio ads, and mobilized supporters to put pressure on state legislators and the governor.
Once this law goes into effect, patients will be able to obtain marijuana at 60 dispensaries -- which will be served by 22 grow locations -- creating the third-largest, state-regulated medical marijuana system in the country.
As a result, 40% of the U.S. population now lives in states with workable medical marijuana laws, and 17 states have decriminalized or legalized marijuana possession. This is a huge feat, but we cannot rest yet!
Unfortunately, people in more than half of the states still face criminal penalties for marijuana possession -- including medical marijuana patients.
After "only" 10 years of lobbying in Springfield, MPP has finally succeeded at persuading the Illinois Legislature to legalize medical marijuana. The Senate approved the measure 35-21 Friday, and it received approval from the House of Representatives by a vote of 61-57 on April 17.
If Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signs the bill, Illinois will become the 19th or 20th state to legalize medical marijuana. (New Hampshire is also on the verge of passing MPP's medical marijuana legislation, so it's a race to see which state will be first!)
The Associated Press reports:
“We are hopeful that Gov. Quinn will join legislators and the vast majority of Illinois voters in supporting this proposal,” [MPP's Dan] Riffle said. “Marijuana has proven medical benefits, regulating it works, and there is broad public and legislative support for doing it. This is a no-brainer.”
If the Illinois bill becomes law, as many as 60 retail establishments will be licensed to sell medical marijuana to patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other serious illnesses.
Gov. Quinn has made some positive comments about our bill, but we still don't know whether he'll sign it. Over the next few months, we must focus on ensuring that the governor sides with the forces of compassion and fiscal prudence, rather than the forces of fear and fiscal waste.