Rauner Issued MediPot Licenses Before FBI Background Checks

Illinois law prohibits certain convicted criminals from participating in the potentially lucrative industry

The State of Illinois issued first-ever licenses to medical marijuana growers and sellers this week, without performing out of state background checks on any of the applicants.

A state police spokesman confirms the applicants were only checked for crimes which may have been committed inside the State of Illinois.

“The original medical marijuana legislation did not meet FBI requirements to access interstate criminal history information,” ISP spokesman Matt Boerwinkle told NBC5. “Recent amendatory language to medical marijuana statute to allow out of state criminal history checks has been submitted to the FBI for compliance with their policies.”

Outgoing governor Pat Quinn signed the amended language into law January 12th. But licenses were issued Monday, without completion of that process.

“If approved, the FBI and ISP will issued revised programming protocols to licensing agencies and Livescan vendors,” he said. “Once revised programming is in place, licensing agencies will be able to access out of state criminal history record information on medical marijuana program applicants.”

Asked about the possibility that skeletons might still be found in the closets of individuals who were handed licenses this week, a spokesman for Rauner said the administration is not worried.

“Those background checks were never intended to have been done as part of the selection process,” spokesman Lance Trover said. “They were only approved with the legislation that Quinn signed on his last day in office. They allow the agencies to conduct background checks going forward, which will happen, and which can be a basis for licensing action in the future.”

The state had one notable experience with after-the-fact vetting, which ended up costing a lot of people a lot of money. A company called Emerald Casino was awarded an Illinois gaming license in Rosemont, only to have it revoked amid questions about the background of some of the company’s investors. The casino was already under construction, and was eventually demolished. Six former officials were hit with a combined $272 million judgment last year.

Trover expressed confidence that once the machinery for background checks is approved, the program can address any potential pitfalls.

“We do not believe it poses any risk to the integrity of the program,” he said. “As soon as the FBI grants approval, these checks can be run, and licensing actions still can be taken.”

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