The Rauner Administration yesterday announced the recipients of licenses under Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. The announcement came late in the day from Governor Rauner’s general counsel but there has still been no announcement on the official website of the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program at the time of this writing.

The announcement came as a surprise to most of us here in Illinois. A week earlier, the Rauner Administration released some documents under a Freedom of Information Act filing and also issued a statement that his administration would “. . . conduct a thorough legal review of the process used by the Quinn administration . . .”  Most believed that the thorough review would take weeks, if not months. No explanation for the efficient legal review was volunteered on Monday.

The announcement on Monday covered 18 cultivation licenses and 52 dispensary licenses. The procedure for scoring the licenses has not been completed and closed, as the law creating the Program authorized 22 cultivation licenses and 60 dispensary licenses. Some licenses are still on hold. Three cultivation center applicants and 5 dispensary applicants are still undergoing further review.

The announcement by Governor Rauner’s general counsel clarified some issues that arose a week earlier about the scoring done by state agencies during the Quinn Administration. Though the applications were scored through a blind review process, without the applicant’s identity being known, the state agencies subsequently carried out a character and fitness review that disqualified some applicants that had otherwise done well in the blind scoring. The Rauner Administration had doubts about the legality of the disqualifications and plans to allow the disqualified applicants to be heard. We see this as a good thing.

All of this means that patients in Illinois prescribed medical marijuana have at least some reason to be optimistic for the first time in months. It will still be a while before they have their medication in hand, however. It will take about six months for the cultivation centers to grow the plants after operations are constructed. A more important issue to watch in the coming weeks will be how many Illinois residents will qualify for a medical marijuana card. So far, only 650 patients have been confirmed. Certainly, more than this number will be necessary to support a vibrant MMJ industry in Illinois.

But at least we have begun.