In January, medical marijuana is coming to Illinois
How will it be regulated? Who is going to police it? What do new legal users need to know or be concerned about from seed to sale?
In Colorado, medical marijuana has been legal for years. And because Illinois is jumping into the industry for the first time, there is a lot to learn from those that have gone before us. Colorado was a trailblazer on the medical marijuana front. It is worth a comparison as we soon become a flower-friendly state too.
Illinois green lighted the sale and consumption of medical marijuana over the Summer. If you have a registration card you can buy up to 2.5 ounces of buds or other products every two weeks. But who is in charge of saying who can buy, sell, grow or manufacture the herb? In Boulder, Colorado, the district attorney Stan Garnett says determining that has not been an easy road.
Initially minor possession of marijuana was considered breaking the law. It is now the D.A.’s lowest priority. What Garnett does enforce is abusers of medical marijuana. A Colorado registry card does not get an impaired driver off the hook. It’s a judgment call, but officers rely on field sobriety tests, walking the line, for example. Blood tests just weren’t realistic, he claims.
Garnett says it’s an imperfect process and the national cannabis industry association.
Right now, testing of the products for safety and potency has not been mandatory in Colorado for more than 10 years. Illinois will require it, according to House Bill 1.
“I think one of the biggest mistakes Colorado made legalizing medical marijuana in 2000, and several years went by with no regulation and no real effort to control it.”
10 years, in fact. So “clinics” as many of them are called, surfaced everywhere. No one was in place to stop it. Some appear more clinical, others resemble head shops playing to the underground culture that has been in Colorado for so long.
Enter Ron Kammerzell from Colorado’s Dept of Revenue. His agency was tapped to oversee growers and sellers and their licensing 10 years too late. Regulation costs money and Colorado didn’t have much to spend.
Here in Illinois
- The Dept of Public Health will screen potential patient applications.
- Illinois police will conduct all fingerprinting and background checks.
- The Dept of Agriculture will oversee safety and potency of the products.
- And the Dept of Financial and Professional Regulation will deal with licensing for the businesses in Illinois.
They will do it from the start. They will all be tied into one computer network program. In Illinois, the sponsor of the bill made an effort to keep sellers from also growing medical marijuana. Colorado required business owners to do both.
Local law enforcement will learn to ask for registry cards when they suspect marijuana is being used. The state’s attorneys across Illinois will prosecute if need be. And the feds have nothing to do with the process at all. They simply pinch business owners by not allowing them to bank anywhere, forcing the legalization of marijuana to be an all cash business and leaving no paper trail for local law enforcement to follow the money if things go wrong.
For law enforcement in Colorado, these are challenges that have forced them to re-think how they approach the medical marijuana masses.
The industry is also asking you to think of it differently. The owners of retail shops, for example, want them called “clinics.” The people buying are not customers, they are “patients.” And gone are the slang terms like pot and weed. Folks in the medical marijuana business want the plant referred to as “medicine,” “buds” or “flowers”—not much more.