Medical Marijuana In Illinois Could Be Available By Beginning Of 2015

May 21, 2014

Officials say dispensaries in Illinois could start providing medical marijuana early next year . Prospective patients say that's not soon enough.

A panel from the Illinois Department of Public Health takes questions.
Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

At a public hearing in Springfield, those seeking marijuana for medical needs argued the rule making process needs to speed up.   Illinois lawmakers voted last year to allow cannabis for certain health conditions.  Since then, the state has been planning how the program will work.
Robert Morgan, an attorney with the Illinois Department of Public Health, says the agency wants to get it right.

"We're working as quickly as we can to make sure we have a safe and efficient program, also keeping in mind that it's a pilot program so we need to work as quickly as possible so that we have a successful program within the four years that we have in the statute," Morgan said.

The director of a state marijuana advocacy program says among the concerns is the potential of the drug being too costly.  Dan Linn with Illinois NORML says that could undermine the program.

Dan Linn, Director for Illinois NORML, addresses Illinois Department of Public Health panel.
Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

"If the price of medicine through the program is ten percent or fifteen percent higher than the street value, we'll see a lot of non-compliance where patients registered to be in the program--they go to the dispensary, they look at the medicine--they might buy a little bit the first time.  But if it's such a cost burden for them that they're not going to continue buying it through the program, they're going to continue going to the illegal market."

Other concerns raised at the hearing include security efforts like background checks, finger-printing and requiring established patient-doctor relationships.  An attorney for the public health agency says any changes in those areas would need legislative approval.
The state has yet to hand out licenses for growing or selling medical marijuana.