State agencies will begin establishing system of regulated medical marijuana cultivation and distribution to individuals with serious illnesses; patients will NOT be protected from arrest until registry is established by Dept. of Public Health

SPRINGFIELD — Legislation adopted this year to establish a state-regulated medical marijuana program will go into effect Wednesday. Licensed medical marijuana cultivation and distribution facilities are expected to begin producing medical marijuana and providing it to patients in late 2014. Patients with qualifying medical conditions will NOT be protected from arrest until the Department of Public Health has established the patient registry and approved their individual applications to the program.

"We hope state officials will work swiftly to ensure seriously ill patients no longer face legal penalties for using medical marijuana," said Chris Lindsey, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Illinois patients and their families have already waited long enough."

The Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (MCPP) will require coordination by three state agencies. The Department of Public Health will oversee the creation and management of the state's medical marijuana patient registry; the Department of Agriculture will regulate medical marijuana cultivation facilities; and the Department of Financial and Professional Responsibilities will regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. These agencies will have 120 days from January 1 to develop rules for the program and file them with the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a bipartisan legislative oversight committee that will review the rules and conduct a public comment period. The process is expected to take approximately 3-4 months. The state has created a website for the program at http://mcpp.illinois.gov.

"Illinois is on the right track, but it is critical that state agencies implement the program within the next few months," Lindsey said. "States with similar laws have implemented them much quicker.

"Once this system is in place, seriously ill people who benefit from medical marijuana will finally have legal and reliable access to their medicine."

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the medical marijuana legislation into law on August 1, making Illinois the 20th state in the nation (in addition to the District of Columbia) to adopt a law allowing people with serious illnesses to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. The bill was endorsed by the Illinois Nurses Association and the Illinois State Bar Association, and more than 270 doctors from across the state signed on to a statement in support of safe access to medical marijuana for patients with serious illnesses.

The Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization, has been responsible for changing most state-level marijuana laws since 2000. For more information, visit http://www.MarijuanaPolicy.org.