Cannabis insuranceWith the advent of state-legal cannabis, the businesses that make up the rapidly growing billion-dollar cannabis industry are still having to struggle to secure many professional services non-cannabis businesses obtain as a matter of course – most notably banking. One bright spot for cannabis businesses, however, is insurance. Dozens of insurance companies that cater to the cannabis industry have sprung up in recent years and federal courts have held cannabis inventories is insurable despite federal prohibition.

But, what if you cultivate state-legal marijuana at home for your own use? Will your general homeowner’s insurance policy cover cannabis plants in the event of theft or fire? A number of large insurance providers would tell you the answer is “no,” and federal court decisions do not consistently side with policyholders. Here is what you need to know about the state of the law and factors to consider when approaching the issue of insuring cannabis in your home.

A U.S. District Court in Hawaii ruled in 2012 that the federal prohibition on cannabis meant that a homeowner’s insurance policy did not cover the theft of medical marijuana plants grown in accordance with state law. The policy in question contained an exclusion for coverage of “cocaine, LSD, marijuana and all narcotic drugs,” but included an exception for “legitimate use of prescription drugs by a person following the orders of a licensed physician.” The plaintiff argued that because she had fully complied with Hawaii’s medical marijuana laws, her plants should have been covered under her homeowner’s insurance policy. The court disagreed, concluding that it could not enforce the insurance contract against the insurer because of the Controlled Substances Act and the supremacy of federal law. A more recent case, on the other hand, should give policyholders hope: a 2016 decision in the U.S. District Court in Colorado held in favor of a cannabis business that sought coverage for its cannabis inventory. Like many aspects of state-legal cannabis, however, the insurability of cannabis is likely to remain uncertain and contested and state-by-state until there is reform at the federal level.

So, what should you do to protect yourself and your plants if you grow at home?

  1. Look at your policy and talk to your insurance provider. The terms of a homeowner’s insurance policy can vary, but most include some version of the language above regarding controlled substances and illegal activities. Only your insurance provider can tell you if it considers state-legal cannabis cultivation to violate this clause. Some insurers are more aggressive about enforcing these provisions than others.
  2. Do not become a business. Nearly all homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover business activities. The definition of what that means is not uniform in all jurisdictions, but be especially careful if you are a caregiver cultivating marijuana for someone else or if you sell your excess cannabis supply into state-legal channels.
  3. Stay compliant with state laws. It should go without saying, but be sure to maintain compliance with all state laws. At issue in the case from Hawaii was whether the plaintiff had more than the allowed number of cannabis plants under Hawaii state law. Even if you have a friendly insurer, failing to follow state marijuana laws will be a deal breaker. No insurer will be obligated to cover damage or theft to marijuana plants in excess of state limits.

For more on growing cannabis in your home state, check out the following:

 

Ohio and Michigan home grown cannabisAs cannabis reform has spread across the United States, it has given birth to a marketplace increasingly driven by business interests. This is the third installment in our series looking at how the changing landscape of cannabis policy affects a key group of often-overlooked stakeholders: medical marijuana patients who choose to cultivate their own supply of medicine. Go here for the home grown laws in Washington and Oregon, and here for  the home grown laws in California and Alaska. Though there are undeniably many benefits to the expansion and professionalization of the commercial cannabis industry, it is also important to account for these small-scale medical marijuana producers that started it all.

This week we look to two Midwestern states that have, to varying degrees, embraced medical cannabis: Michigan and Illinois. These states are relatively new entrants to the medical marijuana scene, legalizing in 2008 and 2013, respectively. Michigan and Illinois are also useful case studies of wildly different approaches to legalizing, regulating, and managing medical marijuana programs at the state level.

Michigan. As of 2013, medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal in the state of Michigan. Accordingly, patients must either grow their own medicine or acquire it from a registered caregiver, who is limited to five patients apiece. Patients who choose to cultivate their own supply are, however, allowed to possess a fairly generous twelve cannabis plants, provided those plants are in a private and locked facility. From these twelve plants, a patient may possess only two and one-half ounces of usable marijuana at a time. Patients should be careful to follow all Michigan laws when transporting usable marijuana, which require all transport be done securely and according to specific rules.

Illinois. As would-be home growers of medical marijuana in Illinois will know all to well, the state’s medical marijuana program does not currently permit home cultivation of any amount of marijuana. Nor does the law allow for cannabis caregivers to cooperatively cultivate any amount of marijuana for patients. This is partly because the state initiative that first authorized medical marijuana was styled as a “pilot program,” intended for the state to test the waters of marijuana reform. Unlike Michigan, patients are able to obtain marijuana from state-approved medical marijuana dispensaries. Patients are allowed to possess up to two and one-half ounces of usable marijuana in a fourteen day period. Nonetheless, patients committed to cultivating their own cannabis supply are out of luck in the Land of Lincoln.

As always, patients and caregivers in Michigan and Illinois should be careful to stay up to date on current state cannabis laws and be ready for things to change over time.

Next week we will set our sights to the east as we analyze home grown medical marijuana laws in the states of New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Illinois and MarijuanaThis is proving to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. We have finally crossed the half-way point. The states featured going forward generally have mixed laws when it comes to cannabis. Some good, some bad, and some ugly. Today we turn to number 22: Illinois.

Our previous rankings are as follows: 23. Minnesota; 24. New York; 25. Wisconsin; 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah;  31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas;  46. Kansas;  47. Alabama;  48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma;  50. South Dakota.

Continue Reading State of Cannabis: Illinois

We are long overdue for an update on cannabis in the Land of Lincoln, so here’s a quick roundup.

Illinois marijuana. It's bad out there.
Illinois marijuana. It’s bad out there.

Paucity of patients: Illinois’ medical marijuana program was designed to be one of the most restrictive in the country, and now, two years into the program, it is clear that our legislators have made good on that promise. At the beginning of January, the Department of Public Heath reported that approximately 4,000 Illinois patients have been approved for a medical cannabis card. In November and December combined, the Health Department approved only 700 patients, which is discouraging because many had hoped that enrollment would spike after medical cannabis sales started on November 9.

As we’ve noted before, the major problem with Illinois’ medical cannabis program is that its list of qualifying conditions does not include chronic pain, which is what qualifies the vast majority of card holders in medical cannabis states. When we commented in June 2014 on Crain’s estimate that 75,000 to 100,000 patients would apply in the first year of the program, we were skeptical, but still optimistic. The real numbers are just a fraction of that: approximately 5,200 prospective patients have completed applications since September 2014. It is now clear that the lack of patients is rendering Illinois’s medical marijuana program downright dysfunctional. Just last week High Times reported that Illinois dispensary owners worry they may face bankruptcy unless they get more patients, and fast. (Of course, federal bankruptcy is not available to businesses dealing in cannabis; read here and here.) Forbes just published a similar doomsday piece. We don’t like to be Debbie Downers, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to stay optimistic about the marijuana industry in Illinois.

New Qualifying Conditions: Back in September we expressed our profound disappointment at the news that the head of the Department of Health (part of the not-very-cannabis-friendly Rauner administration that took office a year ago) would not be approving any of the eleven new conditions recommended by the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board for inclusion on Illinois’ list of qualifying conditions. This meant that patients suffering from osteoarthritis, migraines, and PTSD, among others, would have to go without legal cannabis.

But the statutorily-prescribed process for adding new conditions grinds on, Rauner’s apparent opposition notwithstanding. The Advisory Board is required to review requests to add conditions twice yearly, and is accepting petitions through the end of January. Meanwhile, the Department of Health’s final decision on the last round of petitions (many of the same medical conditions that were rejected in September) is due any day. When IDOH said no in September, Rauner issued his own statement, saying that the program was still too young to “evaluate” or “expand,” which, as we pointed out, was not a valid criterion for rejecting additional qualifying conditions. Now, four months later, sales have finally started, but the “industry” is so weak it’s hard to imagine the Governor taking a different view now.

Patients suffering from PTSD and other rejected conditions could try to sue Rauner and IDOH to try to force the issue, but the most likely outcome of such a suit would be that IDOH would issue a revised reasoning for the rejection, to which a court would likely defer. The best recourse seems to be heightened political pressure, but given that Illinois’ 2016 budget is nearly eight months overdue and Springfield has never been more dysfunctional, it seems likely this issue won’t get much attention. But who knows, maybe the Governor and IDOH will change their minds for the sake of veterans and the chronically ill to win some much-needed goodwill. We’ll be watching either way.

Reduced Possession Penalties: Last year legislators passed a bill that would have reduced small marijuana possession charges to a civil infraction, akin to a traffic ticket. Under HB218, possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana would have resulted in a fine of around $125, and such infractions would not have appeared on a person’s criminal history. HB218 also addressed DUID. Governor Rauner would not sign HB218 as drafted, issued an amendatory veto, and the bill was never passed into law. HB4357 has been introduced in the current legislative session with language essentially mirroring Rauner’s amendatory changes, has had its first reading in the House, and has now been referred to the Restorative Justice Committee. If passed, possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis would result in a fine of $100-$200. DUID is again addressed. We previously wrote of HB218’s support among law enforcement and Rauner’s expressed interest in cost-savings and criminal justice reform, so we remain hopeful this measure will become law and at least some good news on cannabis will flow from Illinois.

Why limit the free speech rights of cannabis businesses?
Can Illinois limit the free speech rights of cannabis businesses? (by Newtown Grafitti, http://bit.ly/21e7sqJ)

Illinois Libertarian candidates Claire Ball and Scott Schluter have filed a federal lawsuit challenging a provision of Illinois’ medical cannabis law that prohibits any medical cannabis cultivation center, dispensary, or any Political Action Committee they create, to “make a campaign contribution to any political committee established to promote the candidacy of a candidate or public official.”

Why does this ban even exist? Outside of the context of medical cannabis, governments often impose heavy restrictions–and sometimes prohibitions–on political contributions from individuals or companies who obtain merit-based licenses and lucrative government contracts. For example, a number of states prohibit casino licensees and their employees from making political contributions. The same is true for companies involved in procurements and government lobbyists.

Although the context differs, the rationale is the same: companies that stand to gain from preferential administrative actions (i.e., issuance of an exclusive license, or selection of their contract bid over another) have a much stronger incentive than most to influence the outcome of that decision making process. Limits on campaign contributions, the argument goes, can act as a buffer between government officials and the people who benefit from and try to influence their decisions.

This lawsuit challenges whether or not this buffer impermissibly restrains the candidates’ and Illinois medical cannabis licensees’ freedom of speech. It alleges that the prohibition is a form of viewpoint-based discrimination, which is subject to strict scrutiny. Under this test, the restriction survives only if it is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest.

The plaintiffs contend that Illinois’ contribution ban meets neither of these elements. The most frequently-invoked government interest justifying these bans is avoiding corruption or the appearance of corruption. The plaintiffs’ best chance for challenging these bans is in the often-criticized Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, which held, as a matter of law, that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” The gaming industry has been, historically speaking, rife with corruption, organized crime elements, and coercive political influence. It isn’t clear whether the cannabis industry rises nearly to the same level as the casino industry, at least one that justifies an outright ban on contributions.

One critical way in which this case is distinguishable from the landmark election cases is that the contributions ban is not generally applicable. The prohibition applies specifically and is completely voluntary by virtue of the cannabis license holder continuing to hold the license. The restrictions vanish the minute the the license is relinquished—the same isn’t true for individual campaign contribution limits. The restrictions also only apply to up to 82 licensed companies and their employees, and to the Political Action Committees and candidates to which they may give money. Nobody forced any of these entities to apply for licenses. To the contrary, they competed fiercely to obtain them, and presumably did so while well aware of the legal strings attached. In many respects, licensees have to waive constitutional rights to obtain operator licenses, such as their Fourth Amendment rights against warrantless searches and seizures. Is it unreasonable to require companies to waive their right to free speech, at least where their protected “speech” is actually a campaign contribution?

I doubt these prohibitions against cannabis donations will withstand constitutional scrutiny. There is no reason, let alone a compelling one, that justifies excluding cannabis businesses from the political process. If anything, given how obviously ridiculous our country’s cannabis laws are, cannabis businesses’ participation in politics is even more crucial. Could you imagine if these restrictions were applied to any other agricultural business, like a corn or soybean farmer? There’s absolutely no chance they would pass muster, and you would have industry lawyers filing a flurry of lawsuits faster than you could say “Monsanto.”

The bottom line is that cannabis businesses that want to start contributing money to political candidates who support cannabis legalization should check their local election laws before doing so. For now, at least.

For more on this, please check out my radio interview.

We know cannabis has been moving slowly here in Illinois, but this week we celebrate.
We know cannabis has been moving slowly here in Illinois, but this week we celebrate.

Yesterday marked a major milestone for the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, as dispensaries made their first sales of products to registered patients more than two years after Illinois legalized medical cannabis.  Let’s take a look at where things currently stand.

Though Illinois law authorizes up to sixty dispensary licenses, only nine Illinois dispensaries have so far been given the green-light to open. Many of those that made it through the state’s competitive licensing process have run into snags with local zoning authorities, forcing some to find new locations and prompting others to seek injunctions against cities while they appeal zoning decisions. All of the dispensaries open are either downstate or in the “collar counties” surrounding Chicago, which doesn’t yet have a dispensary open.

Of the nine Illinois dispensaries currently authorized to operate, five were stocked with product for sale to the state’s roughly 3,300 registered patients yesterday. According to Joseph Wright, the Director of the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, there should be about a dozen dispensaries open before December, and around 25 before the end of the year. Taking today’s numbers, that will work out to about 130 patients per dispensary. Other states’ dispensaries easily get that many customers per day.

Everybody in the cannabis industry will be keeping a keen eye on whether the availability of cannabis for sale in Illinois will trigger an uptick in patient registration. Other states like Massachusetts, Nevada, and Delaware saw significant increases in patient numbers after their dispensaries opened, and some theorize that Illinois’s low patient count is partially attributable to the unavailability of product.

Illinois’s patient pool could too be on the verge of exponential growth if Governor Rauner accepts the Illinois Medical Cannabis Advisory Board’s recommendation to add chronic pain, osteoarthritis, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to the list of qualifying conditions. A group of patients filed a lawsuit last month challenging the Illinois Department of Public Health’s decision to reject adding conditions, which, if successful, would also bode well for patient numbers.

The silver lining for some of the dispensaries that have not yet opened here in Illinois may be a “second mover” advantage. There could be some benefit in sitting back and watching how the market takes shape and not entering the market until patient numbers and demand starts catching up with supply.

Though Illinois’s program has been slow to develop, it is still the Midwest program that bears the closest resemblance to what commercial cannabis markets will likely look like in the future. License by license, patient by patient, we are starting to see progress here, and by the time our neighbors start rolling out programs of their own, Illinois will be looked at as a regional leader. But we’re a long ways off from that just yet.

To read more about Illinois’s medical cannabis program, go here.

Back in May we reported the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board’s recommendation to include eleven additional chronic and debilitating conditions to the Department of Public Health’s approved list of qualifying conditions under Illinois’ Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. The Board’s recommendation paved the way for the Department of Public Health Director to add his stamp of approval. Then, after rule making, the conditions would fully be a part of the Act. In May, we were hopeful for the sake of both patients and industry participants that the new conditions would pass muster and the Rauner administration would sign off. Hopes were dashed, however, last month when the administration inexplicably rejected all of the Board’s recommendations, stating merely that the qualifying conditions would “remain unaltered.”

Illinois CannabisHope springs eternal though. The Act calls for the Board to convene twice annually to consider patient petitions for the addition of new qualifying conditions. The second meeting of the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board took place on October 7 and examined petitions to add autism, chronic pain due to trauma, chronic pain syndrome, chronic post-operative pain, intractable pain, irritable bowel system, osteoarthritis, and post-traumatic stress disorder to the list. Autism, osteoarthritis, and PTSD made the cut last time; the others are new and somewhat squishy, which raises concerns that they won’t hold up to DPH scrutiny. It is anyone’s guess whether DPH will seriously consider any of the petitions, or whether the entire process will again be an exercise in futility.

The Rauner administration’s refusal to expand the pool of eligible patients was very disappointing and maybe even illegal under the Act and basic tenants of administrative law. It might seem pointless to bother accepting and reviewing petitions given the apparently hostile environment at DPH, but the procedure is mandated by the Act. If DPH approves the eight newly-proposed conditions without comment this time around, that action would only underscore the arbitrariness of its first decision. On the other hand, continued refusal to approve conditions will keep the patient rolls small in Illinois, and may effectively kill medical marijuana in this state. But that might have been Rauner’s intention all along.

DPH now has 180 days to take final action on the petitions; we’ll soon learn whether the administration has changed its tune, or if it’s more of the same for medical cannabis here in Illinois.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and the Department of Public Health gave some bad news yesterday for Illinois medical cannabis patients, announcing that the state will not be adding any of the eleven additional conditions approved by the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board. Governor Rauner also vetoed Senate Bill 33, which would have added PTSD by statute.

Illinois Medical Marijuana Pilot ProgramThe Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, which legalized the possession and use of medical cannabis in Illinois, also created the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, a panel of 15 physicians and patient advocates that convene twice a year to consider petitions to add conditions “for which the use of cannabis has been shown to have a therapeutic or palliative effect.” The Board, by majority vote, can recommend to the Director of the Department of Public Health to add these conditions through administrative rule. The Act provides that the health department “shall approve or deny a petition within 180 days of its submission, and, upon approval, shall proceed to add that condition by rule[.]”

The Department of Public Health’s administrative rules further provide that “[u]pon review of the Advisory Board’s recommendations, the Director will render a final decision regarding the acceptance or denial of the proposed debilitating medical conditions or diseases.” Almost two weeks after blowing past the six month statutory deadline, the Rauner Administration entirely rejected the Board’s recommendations, rendering a 56-word final decision that the conditions would “remain unaltered.”

In a separate statement accompanying the veto of SB33, Governor said that:

The pilot program is moving forward, but remains in its early stage. Cultivation centers are just beginning to grow their crops, and the first dispensary was licensed at the end of August. No patients have yet been served, and, consequently, the State has not had the opportunity to evaluate the benefits and costs of the pilot program or determine areas for improvement or even whether to extend the program beyond its pilot period. It is therefore premature to expand the pilot program – before any patient has been served and before we have had the chance to evaluate it.

All of us here in Illinois with connections to its cannabis industry are beside ourselves. Patients, advocates, licensees, and even the Chair of the Advisory Board, are upset with the Governor’s decisions, which will preclude tens of thousands of potential patients from entering an already anemic patient pool. Many are struggling to understand his motivations, especially given his spurious reasoning.

The problem is that all government pilot programs are experimental in nature and necessarily involve tinkering with various policy choices. The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board was created and serves to facilitate exactly that. That board was created to put the consideration of additional medical conditions outside of the legislative process and place it into the hands of expert medical professionals, who can more neutrally and scientifically evaluate the merits of each petition. The Department of Public Health’s administrative rules clearly establish the criteria by which these conditions should be considered: “whether the use of cannabis has been shown to have a therapeutic or palliative effect.” These rules nowhere mention that adding medical conditions should depend on whether or how well the cannabis industry is currently serving the needs of other patients’ conditions. Nor do they contemplate factoring in whether or not to extend the entire pilot program.

Instead, Governor Rauner flat out ignored the recommendations of trained medical professionals who extensively reviewed scientific evidence supporting medical cannabis treatments. A 56-word final decision to deny all these conditions is suspiciously terse; the public (and especially the patients with any of the rejected conditions) are owed a more detailed explanation as to why our Department of Public Health and our Governor rejected the Advisory Board’s recommendations wholesale.

The Advisory Board meets next in October and will reconsider many of the conditions denied yesterday, although yesterday’s news casts doubt on how seriously the state will take its recommendations. There is some hope left as SB33 heads back to the General Assembly, which could override the Governor’s veto by a three-fifths vote in each chamber. Whether this likely happens is unclear since the bill narrowly failed to receive veto-proof majority votes in either chamber, mostly along partisan lines. The Senate has 15 days from the first date it meets next–October 6th–to take up the override vote.

In the meantime, things are not looking good today for patients or the industry here in Illinois.

When will Illinois's medical cannabis regime get beyond the sprouting phase?
When will Illinois’s medical cannabis regime get beyond the sprouting phase?

With summer winding down and seeds now in the ground, let’s recap some of the key legislative developments in Illinois.

The original pilot program extension and decriminalization bills are all but toast. Earlier this spring, the Illinois General Assembly passed three key bills relating to medical cannabis—a decriminalization and DUI bill (HB218), a bill extending the sunset of the pilot program (HB3299), and a bill adding PTSD as a qualifying condition. Governor Rauner issued amendatory vetoes of House Bills 218 and 3299, lowering the possession limits from 15 grams to 10, tightening the per se DUI limit from 15 nanograms to 5, and shortening the sunset extension from 4 years to 4 months.

By law, the General Assembly has 15 days from the next session date to override vetoed bills. Typically, legislators hold a special veto session each fall to ensure that the 15-day clock starts at the same time for all vetoed bills. However, the General Assembly has been in continuous session all summer fighting over an historic budget impasse. So, the 15-day clock on these bills started much earlier than usual.  The House could have but did not call the bill this week, essentially guaranteeing it will fail to become law at all.*

Senate Bill 33, which would add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions, still sits on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature. Some expected him to veto this bill, assuming PTSD would be added through administrative rule, making the legislative change essentially redundant. However, there’s still no word on whether DPH will add any qualifying conditions. The entire industry in Illinois is waiting with bated breath to see whether the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) will expand the list of conditions for medical cannabis patients. In May, the Illinois Medical Cannabis Advisory Board considered petitions to add 15 new conditions. It made a formal recommendation to IDPH Director Nirav Shah to add 11 of those conditions (including PTSD and migraines).

The Director is vested with the discretion to add some or all of these conditions through administrative rule. Illinois law provides that IDPH “shall approve or deny a petition within 180 days of its submission, and, upon approval, shall proceed to add that condition by [administrative] rule.” The 180-day clock ran out last week without any indication of whether any of the approved conditions would be added. The Governor’s Office claims the petitions are still “under review.”

Many in the industry are growing increasingly fearful that low Illinois patient numbers could spell trouble for the program. Only about 3,000 patients have been approved for the program since last year, and the 11 additional conditions would significantly broaden the number of eligible patients. However, peoples’ frustrations are continuing to grow, especially since IDPH’s petition process is simply not functioning the way lawmakers intended it to. I can tell you that our firm’s Illinois cannabis clients are extremely frustrated with the slow pace here and some of them are doubting their ability to continue much longer. We are hearing the same thing at the various cannabis events we attend here in Chicago as well.

A comprehensive tax and regulate bill. The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act was filed last week by Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago), the bill’s sole sponsor. This proposed measure would remove all criminal penalties for possessing less than 30 grams of cannabis, permit home cultivation for up to 6 plants, impose a 10% excise tax, and create a standalone recreational program administered exclusively through the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Interestingly, it does not provide any mechanism for existing medical licensees to convert or cross-over to a recreational license and establishes no selection criteria for potential licensees. We’ll continue to keep our eye on its progress.

In the meantime, about all we can tell you is to hang in there….

 

*Correction: A previous version of this post stated the vetoed version will become law. An astute reader correctly pointed out that AV’ed bills require a concurrence vote, without which it will fail to become law. 

Medical marijuana and illinoisQualifying patients in Illinois, currently numbering approximately 2,800, could be buying oil-based marijuana prescriptions under the state’s Medical Cannabis Pilot Program as soon as October 2015. It will take a bit longer for the raw cannabis plant, for smoking, to be on shelves because the flowers must be dried and cured. (Oil-based products can skip the drying stage.) Several cultivation centers in Illinois now have marijuana plants growing and at least one dispensary is ready for operation.

The first cultivation center, located in Albion, IL, received approval from the Illinois Department of Agriculture on July 10 and started growing marijuana plants on July 13. According to information released by the Department on August 21, six more cultivation centers received approval to start growing plants since the middle of July. Eleven more cultivation-center licensees have received initial approval, but have not yet received a green light to commence operations.

If product had been available, qualifying patients could have had their first prescriptions filled on August 25, 2015. On that date, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced that the first dispensary had completed the inspection process and was given the first license to open for business. This dispensary calls itself Harbory and is located in Marion, IL. The Department’s website will list subsequent dispensaries that complete the inspection process and receive licenses to commence operations on a rolling basis.

To follow-up on our May report, Illinois Medical Cannabis Advisory Board OK’s New Qualifying Conditions, the Illinois Department of Health continues to consider new qualifying conditions for the Medical Cannabis Patient Registry Program. Illinois residents had between July 1 and July 31 to submit petitions with the Department for adding new debilitating medical conditions. This period for petitioning the Department is the first step in this process. Public hearings with then be held and the conditions recommended by the Illinois Medical Cannabis Advisory Board will then need to be approved by the director of the Department of Health.

And finally, the Illinois Department of Public Health has now issued approximately 2,800 approval letters to qualifying patients. According to the Department’s website, approximately 23,700 people have started the online application and of those, approximately 3,500 have submitted a complete application. It is worth pointing out that ten minors have had their applications approved.  This would not have been possible under the law initially adopted by the Illinois Legislature.

The Medical Cannabis Pilot Program in Illinois continues to move forward, with the most recent developments perhaps bringing more optimism than at any time since the program’s inception. The number of qualifying patients is still too low to support a profitable market, but a spike in the number of applicants can be expected once product is available for purchase.

For more information on what is going on with Illinois cannabis and on what its medical cannabis regime is going to look like, we urge you to go here and start reading.