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State medical marijuana users might pay $150 fee, register in fall

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Updated: February 23, 2014 6:32AM



Illinois residents who qualify for medical marijuana would pay $150 a year and undergo a criminal background check under draft regulations revealed Tuesday. And some might be able to apply as soon as September.

A sweeping 48-page draft notice of proposed rules has been posted online at mcpp.illinois.gov, giving Illinoisans time to review the details on everything from who can register, where cannabis can be used and how patients with conditions that aren’t approved can file petitions before an advisory board to prove their case.

To qualify for medical marijuana, you must be an Illinois resident, at least age 18, with a qualifying medical condition — one of more than 40 conditions including cancer, AIDS and glaucoma — and must have a signed medical recommendation for the use of medical cannabis. You also would undergo a fingerprint-based background check, of which you are subject to the cost.

Patients whose last name begins with letters A through L can submit an application between Sept. 1 and Oct. 31. Those with last names beginning with M through Z can apply Nov. 1 through Dec. 31. The annual fee to register for qualifying patients is $150, but patients with Federal Social Security Disability Income can get a 50 percent discount.

Medical cannabis won’t be allowed on school buses or on school properties, including preschools, primary and secondary schools. It also will be illegal to have cannabis in a vehicle unless the medical cannabis is in a “secured, sealed, tamper evident container and reasonably inaccessible while the vehicle is moving,” according to the regulations.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and state Department of Agriculture are still reviewing rules for the state’s dispensaries and cultivation centers, and the rules will posted online as soon as they’re available, IDPH spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said.

The draft regulations released Tuesday will now go to an oversight committee, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, which will review the proposed regulations and conduct a public comment period. That could take up to four months.

Chris Lindsey, a legislative analyst with the nonprofit group Marijuana Policy Project said those who qualify for medical marijuana won’t be seeing the product until early next year.

“Marijuana takes about four months to grow. If you’re not going to be able to apply until the fall, I can’t imagine that we would reasonably expect marijuana to be available to patients until the very end of the year at the best, and more likely the beginning of next year,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey applauded the state’s speed at unveiling the draft rules, but warned that Illinois residents are not protected under the state law until the rules are put in place.

“The way the law is written, patients that would benefit from the use of medical marijuana are not protected by the law until they actually are registered in the state program,” Lindsey said. “Until we have a functional system in place, we don’t have any legal protection for people.”

Lindsey and his organization also questioned the cost of the annual fee when neighboring states, like Michigan boast a smaller one, at $100 a year for qualifying patients and $25 for low-income patients.

“I think the cost to patients is a little high. Certainly, the [Illinois] Dept. of Public Health is entitled to recoup its costs and should recoup its costs, but we think that the cost currently proposed for patients is higher than it needs to be,” Lindsey said. “We don’t know what the cost is yet, but I wouldn’t want to take it out on patients with limited income. I think they’re being cautious about it, overcharging and then expected to reduce it later.”

Legislation that legalized medical marijuana in Illinois for a four-year trial went into effect Jan. 1.

Illinois is the 20th state to adopt a law. Illinois’ law, which supporters call one of the toughest in the country, will expire in 2017.

Email: tsfondeles@suntimes.com

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