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Medical Marijuana Legal Jan. 1 — Now What?
Medical Marijuana Legal Jan. 1 — Now What?

Medical marijuana becomes legal in Illinois on January 1st, but that doesn’t mean it will be available. In fact, the sponsor of the bill, State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) is betting that it won’t.

“Even if the rules are ready, they can’t take applications until then,” said Lang. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has until 120 days after January 1st to finalize the rules governing the program, including who gets to grow it, sell it, and how patients will get permits to buy it. While those could be in place before the law takes effect, then there’s the issue of the state-licensed cultivation centers having time to grow the marijuana.

“It strains my imagination to see how anybody could get any product before summer or fall of 2014, and perhaps later,” said Lang.

The new law is touted as having the toughest restrictions of any medical marijuana program. Patients, caregivers, as well as workers at grow centers and dispensaries will be fingerprinted and undergo background checks. Unlike some of the other states that have medical marijuana, Illinois patients will not be able to grow marijuana themselves. The 22 growing centers and 60 dispensaries the state is allowing will be under 24-hour surveillance.

Lang says all these rules will make the law work, and will convince the federal government not to intervene.