Quinn Punts Medical Marijuana Licensing to New Governor

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has decided he will not award licenses to medical marijuana cultivation centers before his term in office ends

Gov. Quinn took one parting shot before turning out the lights and leaving his Thompson Center office Monday, enacting a series of changes on the state’s new medical marijuana law, and recommending even more.

But he failed to do what proponents of medical marijuana have been begging him to do: issue the licenses for state cultivators and dispensaries. And with the new administration casting a very jaundiced eye toward the program, that left those supporters hopping mad.

“I’m real ticked off,” said state Rep. Louis Lang, the Skokie Democrat who authored the law. “The governor would not complete the job. The agencies did. The state agencies were ready. These licenses were ready to be issued. The governor chose to not put his final stamp of approval on them.”

Quinn spokesman Brooke Anderson disputed that, insisting that the only reason he balked in the waning hours of his administration was that the heavy lifting on vetting the applicants was not complete.

“There was more work to do,” she said. “Agency officials were rushing to get the work completed.”

With Quinn failing to act, the license process is now punted to the new administration. Rauner is known to not be a fan of the program, and said during the campaign he would have vetoed the bill.

It isn’t clear exactly how Rauner will proceed. But thousands of patients, and hundreds of applicants hoped it would not be left for the new governor to decide.

“My biggest fear is that we do a redo,” says Janet Sameh, one of the 214 applicants for a dispensary license. “It’s extraordinarily disappointing if we find that all of our work has gone for naught!”

At best, Rauner says, the licenses should have been auctioned off. But Sameh argues that would give the richest applicants an unfair advantage.

Gov. Pat Quinn discusses the passage of Illinois’ medical marijuana experiment and what needs to be done before the new administration comes in.

“It might go to folks who have deep pockets, but not necessarily those who have expertise, or the compassion,” she said.

Under terms of Quinn’s Monday actions, the Department of Agriculture is given more latitude over cultivation centers suspected of violating the program’s stringent rules. Currently, the only option available is revocation of a license. Now, the department will also have authority to issue formal reprimands or suspensions.

In addition to the amendatory actions taken at the Department of Agriculture, Quinn’s action today made a technical fix, clarifying the vehicle code to make clear that those who drive while impaired under the influence of medical marijuana are subject to arrest.

“Implementing this Pilot Program is nothing less than developing an entirely new supply chain and distribution system for a type of pharmaceutical,” Quinn wrote. “The Pilot Program involves at least four separate agencies of state government, numerous private parties, and thousands of patients and physicians.”

Quinn recommended further changes:

1) Prohibit requiring patients to be subjected to criminal background checks. “This requirement has proven to be a barrier for justice for patients that committed crimes many years ago,” he wrote. “Patients that have paid their debt to society for prior offenses should not be denied access to treatment that could relieve pain and suffering.”

2) Extend the current sunset for the pilot program of December 31, 2017 for two years to December 31, 2019. “This additional time will ensure that that the legislature has the necessary information to make a sound judgment about whether to continue this program.”

3) Clarify the ambiguity in the current statute by explicitly confirming that all 22 cultivation centers contemplated by the Act can be licensed in 21 Illinois State Police Districts.

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