Government
1:50 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Illinois Unveils Medical Marijuana Rules

Credit Wikimedia Commons

A new Illinois law legalized medical marijuana on January 1st, but until regulations are final, patients still can’t use cannabis without risking arrest. 

One state agency is giving patients a first look at its proposed rules. It’s an initial step toward sorting out how medical use of marijuana will work in the state. The Illinois Department of Public Health plans to post 48 pages of draft rules Tuesday. 

Under the proposal, patients would pay $150 a year to apply for a medical marijuana photo ID card.  They also would pay for their own fingerprinting for a background check. Some disabled patients could pay a lower fee of $75 a year. Rules for dispensaries and cultivation centers are still being drafted.   

Meanwhile, candidates for governor don't support legalizing the drug outright in Illinois. Their positions on whether Illinois should extend its four-year medical marijuana pilot project are not so clear cut.

Responding to a questionnaire, most Republican candidates said it was too early to say whether medical marijuana should continue to be available.

But a Republican lieutenant governor candidate who suffers from multiple sclerosis said the program should be extended. So did a Democratic challenger to Governor Pat Quinn.

The question of further legalization could arise on the 2014 campaign trail as sick Illinois patients start getting access to marijuana. Political experts say medical marijuana hasn't been a strictly partisan issue and there are other signs that Illinois could be willing to address full legalization, including Chicago loosening its punishment for those caught with pot.

Quinn, who's seeking re-election, signed a law in August legalizing the use of medical marijuana on a trial basis for severely ill people. State officials must issue regulations before anyone can sign up, though.

Currently, 20 states and Washington, D.C., allow medical marijuana. Colorado and Washington state recently approved recreational marijuana use, the first two to do so.