It has taken more than two years of political wrangling, red tape, and bureaucratic delays, but legalized, medical marijuana is now a reality in Illinois. The state’s first seven dispensaries officially opened for business last week, and initial sales have been brisk, as some 3300 registered patients have been waiting for the opportunity to purchase marijuana legally. According to reports, sales of medical marijuana topped $200,000, with more than 800 individuals buying about 13,000 grams of the drug, an average of about $16 per gram or $450. There is some indication that this average is a bit above the black market price, which many expected, but the higher prices reflect more stringent testing and quality control, and officials believe the price will go down as competition picks up.
Compassionate Use Pilot Program
The state’s medical marijuana experiment is the result of legislation passed in the fall of 2013, and signed by then-Governor Pat Quinn. The measure, officially called the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, allowed for a four-year, full-scale trial to determine the impact, if any, that the controlled legalization of marijuana for medical purposes would have on the state of Illinois. The law approved approximately three dozen conditions for which a patient, upon the recommendation of a doctor, could qualify to participate in the program. The most notable include cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s, and Multiple Sclerosis.
Disputes over licensing and regulatory procedures, however, have long-delayed the trial’s actual start, which is why the news of sales taking place was so readily received last week. During the delays, a number of additions were proposed to the qualifying conditions list, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but were rejected by current Governor Bruce Rauner. Rauner has been very hesitant to make any changes to the program until it actually got underway and began providing observable results.
Not Available in the City of Chicago Yet
All of the dispensaries that began selling products last week were located outside of the Chicago city limits, including locations in Addison and Mundelein. One within the city did officially open its doors this week, but is not expected to have product available for sale until sometime next month. Due to the high concentration of medical marijuana patients in and around greater Chicago, officials expect that the city’s first dispensary will be crowded when the licensing is complete and the products arrive.
Potential DUI Issues
As the program finally gets off the ground, there are a number of concerns over the impact of the socially acceptable use of marijuana, including its effects on safe driving. As of yet, the state has not determined a legally-accepted standard for establishing impairment, leaving such decisions, for the moment in the hands of on-the-scene law enforcement officers. With the Pilot Program Act does contain a provision that offers medical marijuana patient an exception to the existing zero-tolerance law, a non-registered marijuana user—who may have used the drug legally in another state—found to have any trace of cannabis in his or her system can be prosecuted for driving under the influence. Aside from the fact that traces of marijuana can remain in the body for weeks, many see this blatant double standard as unfair and possibly unconstitutional.
If you have been arrested on charges of driving under the influence of marijuana, you need an attorney who is committed to protecting your rights. Contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense lawyer today at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba. We will evaluate your case and help you determine how best to proceed with your defense, no matter how desperate your situation may seem. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule your free confidential consultation.