Illinois close to joining Michigan as second Midwest state to allow use of medical marijuana


March 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Illinois is in the process of becoming the latest U.S. state — and the second in the Midwest — to allow residents to purchase and use marijuana for medical purposes. Earlier this year, the state Department of Public Health issued proposed rules to implement legislation signed into law in 2013.
Nearly half of the U.S. states (including Illinois and Michigan) now have laws allowing patients with certain conditions to use marijuana for medical purposes.

And at least four states in the Midwest are considering medical marijuana legislation this session. (Voters in Colorado and Washington have recently approved initiatives allowing for the recreational use of marijuana, which permits the state-regulated purchase and use of the drug without physician approval.)

Marijuana is considered a Schedule I substance, and federal law technically prohibits possession and distribution of the drug. But the Obama administration has given states leeway in how they regulate marijuana.
Last year the U.S. Department of Justice issued a statement that it would not challenge states’ legalization laws at this time — as long as they comply with federal “enforcement priorities,” such as banning distribution to minors.
Signed into law in August, Illinois’ HB 1 establishes a four-year pilot program in the state. Patients who qualify will be able to purchase marijuana only from state-regulated dispensaries.
Under the law, a 7 percent tax will be levied on cultivators of marijuana, and the proceeds will go into a special fund that helps pay for program administration. 
Any remaining funds will be used for crime-prevention initiatives. In order to apply for a medical marijuana card, Illinois residents would have to give up their firearm-owner ID card in order to be in compliance with federal gun laws.
Policymakers have until April to write final rules governing the program, which is expected to be operating next year. The draft regulations propose issuing special identification cards to patients seeking marijuana from state-regulated dispensaries.
The rules also propose requiring patients to be fingerprinted at their own expense and to pay a $150 annual fee (people receiving Social Security benefits would pay $75, and caregivers could obtain a card for $125). The state is working, too, to develop a list of conditions for which patients will be allowed to enroll in the program.
Six years ago, Michigan voters approved a ballot initiative legalizing the medical use of marijuana. But unlike in Illinois, where patients will need to visit dispensaries, qualifying Michigan residents can grow small amounts of marijuana for their own use or purchase it from “caregivers,” who must also register with the state (there is no state system of dispensaries).
In Michigan, individuals are charged $100 for a two-year medical marijuana card. (Applicants receiving Social Security benefits pay $25.)
Last year, the state reported revenue of $10.9 million from the program and a cost of $4 million to administer it. The Michigan Supreme Court recently settled a case challenging the law, ruling that local municipalities cannot prohibit the use of medical marijuana within their jurisdictions.
Kansas, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin are among the states where bills have been introduced to allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons. A petition drive has also been launched in Ohio to put a medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot.


Article written by Kate Tormey, staff liaison for the Midwestern Legislative Conference Health & Human Services Committee. The committee's co-chairs are Iowa Rep. Joel Fry and Minnesota Rep. Kathy Sheran.