Story Summary

Medical marijuana legalized in Illinois

Governor Quinn signed a bill that legalizes the use of marijuana for medical purposes in Illinois.

Under the new law, a person could be prescribed no more than two-and-a-half ounces of marijuana over two weeks.

The prescribing doctor must also have a prior medical relationship with the patient.

A doctor must find that the patient has one of a few dozen serious or chronic conditions for the marijuana to be prescribed.

The new law would take effect January 1.

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Several rules could be in place when medical marijuana operations start up next year.

Starting January 1, Illinois will become the 20th state to allow medical marijuana.

Mayor Emanuel and Alderman Ed Burke want to limit where dispensaries and growing operations can be.

Under their proposal, those places would be confined to manufacturing districts, need special use permits and have parking space requirements.

There would only be one growing center for each state police district.

This proposal would be an addition to the state law.

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.






In January, medical marijuana is coming to Illinois with the most tightly regulated plan in the nation.

But with two months to go, details are lacking about how the sick will get it, where they will find it and how it could change the landscape.

The state is welcoming medical marijuana with great limitations, only 38 illnesses qualify as reasons to get it.

Just how rigid are our rules will be is still being ironed out legislatively.

And because of that, it could be summer, maybe later, before anyone in this state will get their first puff, taste or dose of medical marijuana.

In Colorado, marijuana goes fully “recreational” in January, making it as easy to buy as a bottle of booze if you’re 21 years of age.

WGN’s Julie Unruh traveled to Colorado how that state influenced what Illinois plans to do.

Kayvan Khalatbari owns Denver Relief, a dispensary in downtown Denver. He is a pioneer in the bud business. He not only sells medical marijuana, he grows it too, at a warehouse, a few miles away. He’s required to sell at least 70% of his grow under Colorado law.

Set up like bank tellers, the bud-tenders are happy to show a patient all sorts of medicine, much of which doesn`t resemble traditional medicine at all.

Medical marijuana comes in many forms: chocolates, gummies, suckers, seeds and nuts, even butter and olive oil and don`t forget the fruity beverages, all infused with cannabis.

For the old school smokers, you can buy a pre-roll or joint, or just buy a bag of buds.

You cannot smoke in the shop, you must buy it and take it home. That’s the law in Colorado and it will be the law in Illinois, too.

2 oz of cannabis products will cost a patient, with no help from insurance, $800-900 dollars. It should last 1-2 weeks.

Between 500 and 600 centers have popped up all over Colorado in recent years. There are also 800 plus cultivation centers in Colorado where the plants are grown.

By comparison, Illinois legislators have approved only 60 dispensaries and 22 cultivation center spread out over the 22 state police districts.

Representative Lou Lang is the sponsor of House Bill 1 in Illinois. He is a champion in the medical marijuana community for getting the bill signed this summer.

“It was important to pass the bill even with a few flaws in it because we have to get the ball rolling to help sick people feel better,” he said.

The few flaws, in Lang`s eyes:

  • Children in Illinois cannot get medical marijuana even with a doctors’  recommendation
  • A densely populated Cook County is allowed only one cultivation center to serve the entire area
  • How do you know when someone is legally impaired? Lang says you don’t and it`s a problem.

As imperfect as it may be, law makers have settled on a field sobriety test. It`s up to the officer who pulled you over to decide if a sobriety test is warranted. Just like in Colorado.

Illinois is greatly restricting how much “medicine” a patient can buy, no matter what form they purchase the plant – only 2.5 oz every two weeks. Legally, Colorado allows 2 oz per transaction- that can be multiple times in one day.

Illinois is requiring testing of these products for potency levels and safety. Colorado does not. And Illinois is requiring all systems be tied into one computer database including sellers, growers and government agencies with oversight. Colorado has no such program, using instead a lot of self-regulation.

Illinois will be a 4-year pilot program only.  But advocates hope it will be extended with fewer limitation in 2018.

While the plan is to make the “medicine” “recreational” in places like Colorado, that is not necessarily the endgame in Illinois.  At least not right now.

­As of today, pot for medical purposes is now legal in Illinois. The state joins 19 others,  as well as Washington DC taking pot sales off the black market for people who are prescribed marijuana for pain.

Governor Pat Quinn signed the bill earlier today and the law will go into effect January 1st, 2014.

There are plenty of restrictions on the process for buyers and sellers.  For starters, there will be no more than 22 cultivation centers in the state with 24 hour surveillance. That is one for each state police district. And they must be 2500 feet from day care centers and schools.

As for dispensaries, no more than 60 in the state and buyers can only obtain 2.5 ounces every 14 days. Patients and caregivers can not be distributors.

The law says 35 medical conditions are eligible for a person to be prescribed medical marijuana.  They included illnesses like cancer, MS and AIDS.

The prescribing physician must have a “established relationship” with the patient.

Marijuana will be unavailable to minors, people with felony drug convictions or psychiatric conditions.  Doctors are also not allowed to prescribe  pot for police, firefighters, probation officers, and school bus drivers.

Governor Quinn signed a bill today, legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes in Illinois.

Under the new law, a person could be prescribed no more than two-and-a-half ounces of marijuana over two weeks.

The prescribing doctor must also have a prior medical relationship with the patient.

A doctor must find that the patient has one of a few dozen serious or chronic conditions for the marijuana to be prescribed.

The new law would take effect January 1.

Governor Pat Quinn took a moment Thursday speak at the University of Chicago before signing Illinois’ new medical marijuana bill, saying it was an “important day for healing” in the state. (WGN-TV)

Governor Quinn is expected to sign a bill today, legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes in Illinois.

Under the new law, a person could be prescribed no more than two-and-a-half ounces of marijuana over two weeks.

The prescribing doctor must also have a prior medical relationship with the patient.

A doctor must find that the patient has one of a few dozen serious or chronic conditions for the marijuana to be prescribed.

The new law would take effect January 1.

Medical marijuana will be legal in Illinois beginning January 1, 2014, after Governor Pat Quinn signs the bill into law tomorrow, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Under the new law, a patient could be prescribed no more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana over a two week period and the patient and prescribing doctor must have had a prior and ongoing medical relationship.

Patients will buy the prescribed marijuana from one of 60 dispensing centers and will not be allowed to legally grow their own.

A bill to legalize medical marijuana in Illinois awaits Governor Pat Quinn’s signature.

Quinn has suggested he is open to it but he has not indicated which way he is leaning. The same cannot be said for many state lawmakers.

The senate vote was 35-21. Five more than needed for passage.

Now the restrictions: Patients can’t grow their own; use it in public or around minors. There would be fingerprinting, background checks. What this would set up is a four-year trial program for patients who have an established relationship with a doctor and who can demonstrate that they need this to ease symptoms and take them out of pain.

State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R) Lebanon said “We’re making a decision today to say in our communities that marijuana use is okay.”

Which is exactly what the Illinois senate did Friday– for medicinal use. The measure breezed through executive committee last week.

State Sen. William Delgado (D) Chicago said “At the end of the day, we’re talking about a plant.”

That said, plenty of statehouse debate about easing access to what the feds call a controlled substance.

State Sen. Mattie Hunter (D) Chicago said “So, I’m gonna vote no- cause I’m not gonna have this matter on my hands. It’s gonna be you all.”

Paul Bachmann, founder of Americans for Disabled Americans,  said “Today is an amazing day. A day that Illinois can be proud of and a day that we will finally move out of prohibition.”

Paul Bachmann, Multiple Sclerosis sufferer and marijuana advocate, who takes a handful of pills every day– powerful narcotics like Oxycontin and still has trouble walking 20 steps and performing basic tasks.

Pot, quite simply, helps– where other drugs do not.

“That cannabis allows me to get out of that chair. That cannabis allows me to drop the cane and just go- let’s play. Let’s do something,” Paul said.

The way this would work– patients with 42 chronic medical conditions, like cancer, MS and HIV, could get up to two and a half ounces of prescribed marijuana every two weeks.

Politicians, though many of them- concerned about endorsing what they call a gateway drug.

State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R) Lebanon said “For every touching story we have heard about the benefits to those in pain, I remind you, there are a thousand times more stories of parents who will never be relieved from the pain of losing a child.” McCarter lost his daughter to a drug overdose in 2006.

MedicalMarijuanaThe Illinois Senate Executive Committee has approved a four-year pilot program that would allow people with certain illnesses to use marijuana to ease their symptoms.

The proposal would allow doctors to prescribe no more than two-and-a-half ounces of pot over two weeks for patients.

The patients would have to buy their medical marijuana from one of 60 dispensing centers across the state. They could not grow their own.

The proposal has already passed the Illinois House.