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Medical Marijuana program closer to reality

Medical Marijuana Dispensary RIllinois’ Medical Cannabis Pilot Program began accepting patient applications for licenses to purchase medicinal marijuana earlier this month. Patients with specific illnesses and a certification from their long-time doctor can now submit applications to the Illinois Department of Public Health to obtain a medical marijuana card, allowing them to purchase medical marijuana from a state-sanctioned dispensary.

Applicants with last names beginning “A” through “L and their caregivers could begin registering with the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program as of September 2 and may continue to do so through October 31.  Patients with last names beginning with “M” through “Z” may apply from Nov. 1 until Dec. 31. After the initial enrollment period, any interested patient will be able to register for the program at any time.

There are more than 100,000 people in Illinois who have one of the qualifying conditions that would allow them to become a prospective medical cannabis patient. State officials estimate that more than 2,000 applicants have already signed up for the program and upwards of ten thousand individuals may apply within the first year.

Businesses have also begun applying for licenses to become authorized growers and sellers of medicinal marijuana this month. The enrollment period for businesses interested in cultivating or dispensing medical marijuana began on September 8 and ended on September 22.  

Illinois expects to grant up to 21 permits for cultivation centers and up to 60 permits for dispensaries, all based on 21 state police districts. As of the September 22 deadline, the state had received 158 applications for cultivation centers and 269 applications for dispensaries. The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation will review the applications and award cultivation center and dispensary licenses by the end of this year.

While the first medical marijuana crop can't be planted until permits for growers are issued later this year, the start-up fees for people interested in this business are not cheap. There is a non-refundable application fee of $25,000 for cultivation center applicants, as well as a first-year registration fee of $200,000.  Cultivation centers will also pay a 7 percent privilege tax on all of their marijuana sales.

More information on the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program and patient applications can be found here.

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