State Holds Medical Cannabis Public Meeting

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By Kevin Hunsperger
By Jared Roberts

COLLINSVILLE -- The rules for patients getting a prescription under the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program have been in place for some time. Now comes the process of approving applications for patients and those wanting to operate a cultivation center or dispensary.

Dozens of people were on hand for a town hall meeting on the fate of the soon-to-be-launched program in Illinois. Representatives from the Illinois Department of Agriculture and Illinois Department of Public Health spent hours answering questions.

"We're encouraging people to talk to their doctors and have that conversation, start preparing their families, and get electronic fingerprints taken so they're prepared for September 2 when we will start the first wave of applications,"
said project coordinator Bob Morgan.

Morgan says people with the last names that start with the letters A through L can apply from September 2 until October 31. Last names M through Z can apply through the rest of the year. 

On September 8, the application process opens up for those interested in opening a dispensary or cultivation center.

"We're not going to be a recreational state, so what people are seeing in Washington and Colorado won't be replicated here. This is a pilot program for medical purposes only. We're looking at other states, but this is a very limited program," Morgan explained.

Safety of the product is a big concern. Once approved, the 60 dispensaries and 21 cultivation centers will have to register with the ag department.

"We're also going to have labeling requirements for the product. We will be asking the cultivation centers to have their product tested by an independent lab for the levels of THC," said the department's attorney Ray Watson.

Right now there are several requirements to open a dispensary, including $400,000 in an escrow account. Half a million dollars is required for a cultivation center.

A committee of state employees will review those applications after the September 22 deadline. Security plans for the facilities will also be a factor.

"We want you to give us your security plan. You tell us the best security plan you have. We're not going to dictate to you what that plan is. We will be scoring on the quality of that plan," said Watson.

Morgan says the state won't get involved in the pricing process, but says medical cannabis will be market driven and affordable for the people who need it.

Stephanie Dalton, who works for a doctor in Marion, wanted to know more about the relationship requirements between a physician and patient.

"We do need the physician to have a relationship with these people, and we do understand the difficulties of patients who don't live near a doctor. But we want to make sure the physician is the person responsible for them and their care," said Laura Sherman Oderdorf with the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The plan right now is for patients to have access to medical marijuana in early 2015.  If you have questions about the application process, click here.
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