CHICAGO, IL – Governor Pat Quinn will sign legislation Thursday making Illinois the 20th state in the U.S. to legalize medical marijuana, just a few days before the bill was set to become law without his signature.
Gov. Quinn is expected to sign the bill at the University of Chicago, where he will speak about how the medical marijuana legislation, which will take effect January 1, 2014, will help provide relief to seriously ill patients, including veterans.
House Bill 1, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, was passed by the legislature in May but has remained unsigned by the Governor, who had previously expressed support of the bill but would not indicate if he would sign it into law.
Under Illinois law, if the Governor fails to sign or veto a bill within 60 days of receiving it from the legislature, the bill automatically becomes law. The bill was sent to the Governor on June 5, and the 60 day clock would have run out Sunday.
The bill will create one of the strictest medical marijuana programs in the country, and only for four years, but it will finally allow people suffering from specific medical conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS, to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it after a decade long battle.
Qualified patients will be able to obtain marijuana from one of up to 60 dispensaries, which would acquire marijuana from up to 22 cultivation centers. The Illinois Department of Agriculture, Department of Health, and Department of Financial & Professional Regulation would regulate the cultivation, acquisition, and distribution of marijuana.
Under the four-year pilot program outlined in the Illinois bill, patients would have to be diagnosed with one of 33 debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis or HIV/AIDS in order to qualify for medical marijuana. Patients must register with the state’s health department and have written certification from their physicians.
Patients will be limited to 2.5 ounces (70 grams) of marijuana every two weeks. The marijuana must be grown in Illinois, kept in a closed container, and not used in public or in front of minors.
Those who use, grow or sell medical marijuana must be fingerprinted and undergo background checks during the application process. Patients suspected of driving under the influence face the loss of not only their driving privileges, but also their medical marijuana cards.
The bill will take effect on January 1, 2014, but a timeline for implementation has not yet been established.