Medical marijuana is big news in Illinois this year but those who want to get into the business of cultivating or dispensing cannabis are going to have to wait patiently. The (Compassionate Use of) Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (“MCPP”) became effective January 1, 2014 and the State of Illinois maintains a website used to post notices and links to resources offered by the three agencies involved in the administration of the pilot program. An implementation update published February 7, 2014, reads, “The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Department of Revenue and Department of Agriculture have posted online draft administrative rules for the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. The rules address regulations for medical cannabis dispensaries, taxation and cultivation centers.[i]”
The Marijuana Policy Project published, “An Overview of Illinois’ Medical Marijuana Law. Be advised that as the Act’s regulations are still being promulgated, there may be a variety of information available online and anyone interested the business end of this new pilot program should not take any actions without the advice of an attorney.
Attorney, Michael V. Favia: “I think this is a fast moving business opportunity with huge potential for those who can get it up and going as soon as possible. Our firm has already been contacted by several interested parties and we have commenced preparation of the documents necessary to initiate the process. In the meantime, there’s an extensive amount of complexity involved in securing these marijuana outlets, which requires the necessary expertise and the appropriate staff to move it along quickly. Many, if not most, interested parties have already commenced taking steps in a business that looks to be very lucrative if operated correctly.”
The Illinois Department of Agriculture regulates cultivating medical marijuana.
The MCPP specifically allows for the registration and regulation of 22 cultivation centers. The Illinois Department of Agriculture (“IDOA”) posted a draft of the proposed rules for public consideration and comment, available on the IDOA MCPP website. On the website, a section of frequently asked questions indicates that until the rules for the administration of cultivation centers are approved, the department is not taking a list of names of people interested in growing cannabis. Once rules are established, including procedures for applications to grow will be published on the IDOA website. Currently it is illegal to grow cannabis for any purpose.
The Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation regulates and medical marijuana dispensaries.
State oversight of dispensaries and the licensed physicians who operate them is the responsibility of the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (“IDFPR”). A December 2013 press release, “State Urges Caution towards Medical Cannabis Clinics[ii], highlights a formal complaint filed against a Chicago doctor who was alleged to have been “pre-approval” registrations in violation of Illinois law. The MCPP only permits licensed physicians with, “a bona fide physician-patient relationship” to certify a patient they are treating for a “qualifying debilitating medical condition,” for the use of medical cannabis. The Illinois law is strict and many anticipate a focus and crackdown on illegal dispensaries.
Be cautious of businesses advertising medical marijuana dispensary setups.
Medical cannabis is big business and there is significant revenue involved. There are online business operations advertising to would-be dispensary owners who want to set up shop. It is not advisable to risk civil and criminal liability for getting it wrong. There are minimum financial requirements to start a medical cannabis operation. The recent article in the Chicago Tribune suggests, “For dispensaries to sell the pot, state officials proposed a $5,000 nonrefundable application fee, proof of $400,000 in assets, a $30,000 permit fee and a yearly permit renewal fee of $25,000.[iii]” Hiring an attorney to review documents and advise a client on cultivation and dispensary is a best practice to avoid breaking the law. Remember, despite Illinois state law, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level and is still listed as a schedule I narcotic.[iv] Local law enforcement speculates on the potential for legal marijuana in the future. “Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther thinks marijuana will be legal soon.[v]” But even with eyes watching states like Colorado and Washington where marijuana is now legal for recreational use, the DEA, even if taking a back seat in most cases, can still be a concern.
How can our law office help medical professionals interested in opening a dispensary?
We receive inquiries from medical professionals interested in more information about medical marijuana dispensaries. One of our law firm’s practice areas is professional licensing and attorney, Michael V. Favia, having worked for the prosecution and defense sides of professional licensing matters in Illinois, is knowledgeable and can offer advice and counsel on the MCPP.
With offices conveniently located in the Chicago Loop, Northwest side and suburban meeting locations, you can schedule a discrete meeting with an attorney at your convenience and discretion. For more about Michael V. Favia & Associates’ professional licensing work, please visit www.IL-Licensing.com and feel free to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” the firm on Twitter.
[ii] Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation: State Urges Caution towards Medical Cannabis Clinics. Released Dec. 16, 2013.
[iii] Chicago Tribune: Proposed medical pot rules would require about $500k to open shop. By Robert McCoppin, Feb. 11, 2014.
[v] Mundelein Review: Mundelein readies for medical marijuana, possible full legalization. By Rick Kambic, Feb. 11, 2014.