Despite medical cannabis being legalized in the state, the Illinois Department of Public Health clearly thinks medical marijuana users are still criminals. Proposed rules for the program unveiled yesterday by the department would require all patients to be fingerprinted and undergo a background check before they could use the plant.
Thankfully, these are just draft proposals and there will be plenty of time for public comment on these stupid, onerous restrictions.
Illinois legalized medical cannabis in 2013, though the program is being restricted to just four years and is considered a pilot so that the state can create a more permanent plan down the line. Qualifying conditions include multiple sclerosis, lupus, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and lupus among others. The state will also license and regulate sales at as many as 22 medical cannabis dispensaries around the state. Patients will be allowed to purchase up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks.
The law also required that the state health department have a set of rules up and ready within 120 days of the program going online January 1. So far, those rules are turning out to be some of the most restrictive in the country. Of course, the state bureaucrats just love it:
“We’re really excited about a really transparent process,” Bob Morgan, director of the state medical marijuana program, told the Associated Press this week. “It’s quite unprecedented for us to go through these steps.”
Patients, on the other hand, are deservedly skeptical. Language in the bill would also require medical marijuana cardholders in the state to give up their state firearm owner’s ID card and concealed-carry permits.
“I kind of feel like they’re stomping on my constitutional rights,” said Jim Champion, a veteran from Somonauk who is now battling multiple sclerosis. Federal laws also prohibit marijuana users (even state-legal ones) from possessing firearms.
The background search isn’t just for firearms, however. The department says that anyone convicted of a drug felony in the past will be ineligible for a medical cannabis card. For that matter, so are police officers, firefighters, school bus drivers and commercial drivers.
Patients would also have to pay an annual fee of $150 in addition to the costs for fingerprinting and a background check from the state. State officials say that is in line with other states that charge as much as $200. Colorado charges $15. State officials say they still expect a flood of patients and wouldn’t be surprised to see the numbers get into the tens of thousands.
No word on when public hearing will be held, but state officials say that there will be an opportunity for comment before the rules head to the state for final approval. There will also be time for public comment at the state hearings, likely in August.