* Molly Parker…
The law allows current medical cannabis dispensary operators to seek a license to sell recreational marijuana, so long as they continue to provide products for medical use. The idea in allowing the medical marijuana dispensaries the ability to also sell recreational marijuana was to ensure the state has at least a minimum number of facilities open and operating on Jan. 1.
But some medical dispensaries may need to change locations. That could mean moving down the block where parking is better, or to another city entirely, if the one where the operator is presently located decides to prohibit recreational sales.
The law allows municipalities the ability to opt out, as well as implement zoning requirements, much like with liquor stores. Yet the state’s regulatory agency recently informed medical dispensary operators that if they move locations, they forgo their ability to receive a license for adult use recreational sales.
This narrow interpretation of the law runs counter to lawmakers’ intent, according to a letter from two of the bill’s sponsors sent to Pritzker late last week. It also represents an about-face by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which issues the licenses.
What the what?
* There are other worries…
Advocates are concerned that the state has not yet set up a funding program meant to make it easier for those with marijuana-related arrests on their records to start businesses in the industry. The application process for 75 new dispensaries opens Oct. 1, and time is running out, they say.
The applications will be the first path into the industry for entrepreneurs who don’t already operate a marijuana facility, and those applicants could face stumbling blocks if there isn’t clarity on the promised financial aid.
“People are … working on their plans, they’re working on their locations, they’re working on what they can work on, but they don’t know how much money they have to spend,” said Edie Moore, executive director of Chicago NORML, a marijuana reform nonprofit that has been working with people preparing to apply for licenses.
The state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is charged with establishing the grant and loan program. Spokeswoman Charity Greene said it will issue details on the program, including loan and grant sizes, by the time the state begins accepting applications.
*** UPDATE *** From the governor’s office…
August 27, 2019
Senator Steans and Representative Cassidy:
Thank you for sharing your concerns about the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s implementation of certain provisions of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. Your dedication to this issue and leadership during the legislative session led to the most equity-centric law in the nation to legalize adult-use cannabis. Now through implementation, I am confident that we can build a safe, successful and equitable adult-use cannabis market.
The early access to market for existing medical dispensaries was intended to ensure that the State has a minimum number of facilities open and operating on January 1, 2020, and to allow the State to use funding from those early facilities to build a fund for social equity programs. Keeping equity in mind, however, the Act was also designed to balance this early growth for existing medical dispensaries with our commitment to bringing in new applicants through the social equity program.
With an understanding of the existing medical dispensaries’ current capacities, we struck that balance by providing the opportunity for existing medical dispensaries to open two adult use dispensaries before any new businesses can enter the market: one at their current medical dispensary and one at a different location. The language of the bill distinguishes between these two dispensaries. The statute specifically provides that the first is to be opened at “any medical cannabis dispensing location in operation on the effective date,” Section 15-15(a), and the second may be opened at “a secondary site…within any BLS region that shares territory with the dispensing organization district to which the medical cannabis dispensing organization is assigned,” Section 15-20(b).
This language allows for early expansion by the existing medical dispensaries but, importantly, seeks to ensure that they do not completely dominate the new market before new dispensaries can enter the market in July 2020. Any implementation of the early approval program by the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation must maintain this balance between early growth and social equity that was written into the law.
I appreciate the concerns that you and the medical cannabis industry have raised regarding medical dispensaries in operation on the effective date located in municipalities that ultimately opt out of adult-use cannabis or that impose zoning restrictions that prevent adult-use sales at the current medical dispensary sites. Medical dispensaries in such a situation are still permitted early access to the new adult-use market by opening a secondary site under the Act while continuing to operate their existing medical dispensary. At this time, the Department does not know how many medical dispensaries will not have the opportunity to operate at their current sites as many municipalities are still considering how to proceed. The Department will continue to monitor the situation to assess and my office is more than willing to discuss potential solutions with you when we have a better understanding of the scope of the problem.
We value your input as we work through implementation of this historic legislation and we look forward to continuing this conversation about how to ensure success for all aspects of this new industry.
* And there’s this…
Hope Smith said her 19-year-old daughter uses medical cannabis to alleviate a qualifying medical condition. She said her daughter was able to get more precise doses of the medicine by vaping or smoking it as opposed to other cannabis products.
After the governor signed the medical cannabis expansion measure making the pilot program permanent and adding conditions, Smith said she was told by her dispensary that the updated law no longer allows the sale of smokable products to adults younger than 21.
Smith said that needs to change for her daughter’s sake.
“The medical marijuana and dispensaries, and the diseases, for people that are able to buy it and are able to get the right medicine, I don’t want my child to turn to buying flower or vape on the street, I don’t want her to use an opioid,” Smith said. “Because those are unsafe.”
State Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, sponsored the medical cannabis expansion measure the governor signed.
“There was a good intention behind [the change aligning with Tobacco 21] … but as with anything, there are unintended consequences with new legislation and I think this is a great example of the potential harm that can happen to individuals when you start to conflate different topics,” Morgan said.
* But check this out…
Former Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar wants to get into the cannabis business with a restaurant entrepreneur, a doctor and a political consultant. They’re angling for one of the 75 new licenses to operate a retail dispensary in Chicago once recreational use of marijuana becomes legal next year.
Pawar and his partners, including political consultant and fundraiser Hanah Jubeh, have come up with an over-the-top plan that combines elements of dining, spa and medicine with marijuana sales.
“We’re focused on total wellness,” says Pawar, a former 47th Ward alderman who briefly ran for governor in 2017 and then lost the city treasurer race in April. “It’s going to be a place where you could get a massage or take a yoga class, get a bite to eat and stop at the dispensary on your way out.”
Additional partners to join Pawar and Weiner include:
* Dr. George Chiampas, an emergency room doctor and medical director of the Chicago Marathon
* Nikki Hayes, president of Laborers International Union of North America, Local 1001
* Hanah Jubeh, a political consultant and fundraiser. […]
Pawar told Crain’s he plans to apply for social equity applicant status and aims to hire more than 50 percent of his staffers from areas affected by the war on drugs.