Communities Waiting for Medical Marijuana Process to Move Forward

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By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Andy Shofstall

CENTRALIA --  The rules for the Illinois medical marijuana pilot program will soon be on the books. On Tuesday, a legislative committee approved the rules. The move clears the way for growing and selling applications next month.

The pilot program allows for 22 cultivation centers and 60 dispensaries. That means both are coming to the southern Illinois region. 
 
Several area communities are now taking steps to show they're open for business.
 
Centralia is hoping a soybean field will help them land a new sort of cash crop.
 
"I think we have a strong contender here," said City Councilmember David Sauer. "The state is not looking for fly-by-night people."
 
Earlier this year, the city got the call from investors looking to open a medical marijuana cultivation center. Sauer calls it an opportunity too good to pass up
 
"The Illinois legislature decided there will be cultivation centers in various places in southern Illinois," said Sauer. "The question is who's going to get the benefit?"
 
He's heard few complaints about the idea. The site could bring in about a dozen jobs and revenue sharing with the city.
 
"A big pole barn that's secure with a fence around it, where you don't see the product ever, and it goes somewhere else to be sold," said Sauer. "I think they're ready for that."
 
Sauer and others are anxiously waiting for the next step. That's when the state begins taking applications and choosing the cultivation centers and dispensaries.
 
On Tuesday, a committee gave the stamp of approval to the medical marijuana rules. A state spokesperson says officials plan to post the applications to the internet in August and start accepting them a short time later. The number received will determine how long it takes to select the winning sites for each district.
 
"We don't know who we'll be competing against," said Sauer. "And we don't want them to know too much."
 
By working ahead on zoning, permits, and leasing, Sauer feels like Centralia and the investors it's working with are growing their chances.
 
"The state wants to know that they have the ability to carry this out and to do it to the letter of the law," said Sauer. 
 
The pilot program runs through 2017. It's expected to be next year before the first patients will be allowed to buy medical marijuana.
 
You can view the draft rules for medical marijuana here.
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