Illinois’ Medical Marijuana Program
Updated January 2019
As of mid-2018 the state’s restrictive medical marijuana program had around 44,000 patients and was doing about $12 million a month in sales. That is expected to increase rapidly as sitting Governor Bruce Rauner, who opposed full legalization, signed into law a measure In late 2018 which qualifies patients with prescriptions for opioid painkillers to also qualify for a medical marijuana card. The new rules also eliminated requirements for fingerprints and criminal background checks.
Although Governor Rauner was opposed to recreational initiatives, he was not opposed to cannabis reform measures across the board. While in office he passed measures legalizing industrial Hemp and allowing students to use medical cannabis in schools.
Previously, Rauner was reluctant to expand the state’s medical marijuana program. Back in 2015, Rauner vetoed a bill that would have added illnesses such as osteoarthritis and post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualifying conditions under the program.
Some attribute Rauner’s about-face to an attempt to increase his chances of reelection. However, Rauner claimed that he “came to a big conclusion” after studying the issue for months. Rauner cited “clear evidence” that opioid deaths are reduced by almost 15 percent in communities where medical cannabis is available to treat pain.
“I am very much opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana. But it’s clear from the research, and I prefer to focus on evidence and research results,” Rauner said. “It’s clear that medical cannabis treats pain effectively, and it is less addictive and less disruptive than opioids. Creating that option is an important step forward to improve health quality, and that’s why I signed the bill.” — Former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner
When asked whether he’d be open to adding more conditions to the state’s program, Rauner stated, “It’s clear that medical marijuana treats pain more effectively. It’s very possible that there could be more additions in the horizon.”
Currently, Illinois has 13 million residents but the state’s medical program allows for only 60 retail licenses and 19 cultivation licenses. That’s just over 200,000 residents per dispensary. And because existing players will have a head start should recreational cannabis be legalized, the values of those licenses are expected to rival those in larger states such as Florida and New York.