Potential Scenarios For Illinois MMJ Industry

207After former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn left office without signing off on medical cannabis license applications, cannabis entrepreneurs in the state have been in a lurch. Quinn left the matter to new Governor Bruce Rauner, who is an outspoken critic of the state’s marijuana licensing process. This makes the Illinois MMJ businesses concerned as to what’s going to happen under the new administration.

There are various actions Rauner could take:

  • “Do a very slow walk-through” of the licensing, or even restart the entire process, said Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie. Lang was a prime sponsor of the state bill that led to the establishment of its MMJ program. If Rauner takes this course of action, the program could be delayed by weeks or months.
  • Quickly review the process and move forward with awarding the licenses.
  • Refuse to sign off on the licenses – basically doing nothing about them and holding up the program implementation indefinitely.
  • Scrap the Quinn administration’s scoring system for granting business licenses, then develop a new criteria for ranking applicants. Lang believes this is just as bad as taking no action at all, because it would drag out the industry’s uncertainty. This course of action could lead to lawsuits and more mess.

Rauner’s comments make it difficult to determine his next step. Last week, his office issued a statement saying he commits to have “a quick and thorough review”, hoping to provide “clarity to [many] concerned families” in the state. But after news leaked that Quinn already had a shortlist for licensing, a spokesman for Rauner emphasized, “No licenses will be granted” before they have thoroughly reviewed the process.

Some insiders are optimistic, however, that the new governor will tackle this matter sooner rather than later. For one, he retained Quinn’s MMJ pilot program coordinator, whom Lang says is the most knowledgeable of the program.

But regardless of the new administration’s schedules, Lang is concerned about the remaining time for actual implementation. Even if MMJ businesses got licenses this week, the products would not be ready until May or June, because cultivators have to set up shop and growers have to await their first harvest. This would leave only two and a half years remaining in the state’s four-year pilot program.

With that, Lang sees another scenario: dampened interest of the business community, plus a change in the industry’s dynamics. Entrepreneurs might not put much money into the remaining time of the program, especially because there is no guarantee of its continuance. In addition, the time squeeze could raise prices for patients. The representative intends to create a bill to reset the program’s timetable, but Rauner’s office has yet to comment.

In the meantime, license applicants want to take action to make sure the governor is focused on the issue. On Friday (January 30), some 30 to 40 applicants plus their attorneys held a meeting in Chicago, discussing the initial stages of the soon-to-emerge Cannabis Association of Illinois.

Chicago attorney Brian Rosenblatt, who works closely with some applicants and attended the meeting, said they are eager “to do whatever it takes” so that they can work with Rauner’s office.

Attorney Eric Berlin, who has done pro bono work worth thousands of dollars just to help pass the program in 2013, added that some involved parties “are frustrated and mulling lawsuits”. He warned, however, that lawsuits could add to the delay.

Berlin mentioned some reasons applicants would want to sue. Aside from the uncertainty, many of the pending MMJ businesses have already incurred large expenses. The attorney said he knows many applicants who have already invested a whopping $100,000 to $1 million for their MMJ business models.

In addition, he said the number of patients approved to get legal MMJ registrations is “underwhelming”: only 650 as of mid-January.

People behind the MMJ program are holding out in hope. Melaney Arnold, a spokesperson for the program, said that about 13,000 potential patients have begun their application process, with 1,800 having submitted part or all of the application. Lang also pointed out that the program has not even run yet, and he believes that once it does, the patient base will rapidly expand.

Posted in: Articles

Comments are closed.