MMJ Cultivation Begins In Illinois, Sets Stage For Sales

maryjaneIllinois may likely see medical cannabis sales later this year as cultivation of the plant is now underway in the state.

Just this Monday (July 13), the MMJ company Ataraxia has started planting marijuana after it received final authorization from Illinois’s agriculture department the previous Friday. Ataraxia has a cultivation license for a southeastern Illinois area, and it is one of the first companies to grow MMJ in the state.

Another cultivator also got a final green-light last week, though the state has yet to identify the company. Meanwhile, the licensed cultivation and dispensary company PharmaCann needs at least one final inspection by regulators before it can start planting this week, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Marijuana industry watchers consider the start of cultivation as a sign that the medical cannabis program in Illinois is moving forward, despite numerous delays and uncertainty. Moreover, it is a step forward for the dispensary owners in the state to serve patients and generate revenue.

“The next milestone will be product being available,” said Ataraxia chief compliance officer Ross Morreale. He added that the company expects to start providing oil-based product to dispensaries in October at the soonest, and flowers will come shortly after.

The Marijuana Business Factbook estimates that once dispensaries open, the industry could generate revenues of $15-30 million in just the first 12 months of sales. This could climb even higher if Illinois approves more medical conditions to be included in its MMJ program.

As of July 1, about 2,600 MMJ patients had finished signing up for the program. While this is lower than the tens of thousands originally expected, those in the industry believe that many more will sign up once the product is actually available.

According to Morreale, the state requirement that patients should be fingerprinted is a serious obstacle for the industry. Another is the reluctance of physicians to recommend the drug to patients.

Morreale, who also chairs the Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois, is working on education and outreach programs for such physicians. He believes that more of them will come around in the next six months or so. He is also hopeful that a petition to ease MMJ regulations will convince policymakers to make amendments on the program so that it is easier for patients to access the drug.

For now, cannabis growers and dispensaries in the state are moving along. Illinois will allow only up to 21 grow sites and 60 dispensaries statewide, but according to dispensary owner Brad Zerman, “a whole bunch of [cultivators]… seem like they’re ready to go.”

Zerman agrees that Illinois will see more progress before 2015 ends. “I think all these businesses [will] be up and running by the end of the year,” he said.

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