Illinois will begin issuing licenses to grow and distribute medical marijuana 18 months after a law was signed legalizing it, Governor Bruce Rauner's general counsel said in a statement on Monday.
Former Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, who supported medical marijuana, left office in January without issuing licenses for growth and distribution, leaving it to Rauner, a Republican, who asked for a review of the selection process.
Quinn's administration had prepared lists of possible recipients based on scoring of applications. But Rauner's team's review concluded that some applicants had been disqualified without clear procedures, giving rise to legal liabilities.
As a result, Rauner issued on Monday a list of growers and dispensary operators who will receive permits and licenses in many areas of the state, with some gaps that will be filled in after review of applications that had been disqualified on Quinn's preliminary list of recipients.
"Any applicant that was recommended for disqualification will be fully informed of the basis for that decision (and) given an opportunity to respond," Rauner's General Counsel Jason Barclay said in the statement.
Marla Levi, 51, a multiple sclerosis patient of Buffalo Grove, Illinois who's been waiting for legal medical marijuana, said she hopes the right candidates get licenses. "I hope they put patients first, and not money," she said.
Several months could still go by before medical marijuana is sold in Illinois. Winners must put up a bond, pay license fees and register agents. Also, any marijuana sold in the state must be grown in the state, which takes at least 4-1/2 months.
Illinois is one of 23 states along with the District of Columbia that permit medical marijuana. Illinois' trial program expires in 2017.