Medical marijuana rules get Illinois committee OK - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Medical marijuana rules get Illinois committee OK

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Rules for Illinois' new medical cannabis program have been approved by a legislative committee, bringing legal marijuana one step closer to reality for qualifying patients.

The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules approved the regulations at a meeting Tuesday in Chicago. Lawmakers claimed they will track every marijuana bud and leaf produced.

The group discussed rules for both patients who are looking to get relief for a medical condition and growers. It is not clear how many people who have medical conditions are interested in getting registry cards, but the Marijuana Policy Project estimates more than 10,000 patients could eventually sign up in Illinois. Applications could begin as early as September and medical marijuana would be available in 2015.

State representative Lou Lang told FOX 32's Joanie Lum he has been working toward this for years.

"It took me five years to pass this bill and I didn't do it to create business or revenue. I did it to provide a better quality of life for every sick person in our state," Lang said.

The new state law allows 21 marijuana cultivation centers and 60 dispensaries geographically scattered around Illinois. Aspiring marijuana entrepreneurs hope to be growing the plant by later this fall for sale in early 2015 to patients who qualify for a medical marijuana card.

Farmers said the cultivation centers and dispensaries will provide jobs and there's serious money to be made.

"We're looking at numbers, if 1 percent get their medical card, we're talking millions and growing from there," said Bryan Willmer of Grand Prairie Farms.

Lang says some patients have been anxious about the pace, but he thinks it's been reasonable. He credits "an involved governor's office" for getting rules approved in slightly more than six months after the law took effect.

“You can't be a patient unless you have 1 of 39 diseases, not for everything. You have to have a bonafide relationship with a doctor,” Lang added.

Medical cannabis program coordinator Bob Morgan says interested patients should start talking with their doctors about the program. The Illinois State Medical Society is helping its members learn about the law and the medical uses of marijuana. Right now patients can learn how to file applications to be submitted in September.

Lawmakers don't want people to think medical marijuana will be growing in open fields. It will have to be grown indoors, with sophisticated surveillance systems, accessible to police.

The Associated Press and FOX 32's Anita Padilla contributed to this story.

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