As of January 1, Illinois became the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana. But the fight for making this medicine available to the masses is far from over. Projections estimate at least a year before legislators are able to come to an agreement about the specifics of the new law, meaning potential patients will have to continue to wait.
“This law will be the most highly controlled and regulated,” said Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie), the bill’s chief House sponsor. “It is like no other bill in no other state.”
Lang’s words echo those of so many lawmakers across the country, who insist their state medical marijuana program will be the strictest of all.
“We’re not going to be like California, where pretty much anybody can get an online prescription from a doctor they’ve never heard of,” he said, appeasing critics of marijuana reform. “It is not likely that any patients will have the product before fall or winter 2014 at the earliest.”
According to Redeye Chicago (whose ironic name has nothing to do with the subject matter), several state departments will be working hard over the next several months to iron out details, submitting their findings and recommendations to lawmakers by May. These will ultimately lay the groundwork for the specifics of the medical pot regulations. Everything from fees charged to growers to what computer software dispensaries will use will be at issue.
“There are more things to figure out than you could imagine,” said Sam Kamin of the University of Denver College of Law. “Whether it’s labeling, additives, colors, how to avoid marketing to children, how to deal with costs … there are literally hundreds of thousands of decision points along the way.”
Lawmakers and state officials will be certain to make one thing abundantly clear: the new medical marijuana law does not mean they are turning a blind eye to marijuana crimes. On the contrary, in an effort to ensure the new law isn’t perceived as reefer madness in the making, they may begin cracking down harder on recreational pot users who are caught in possession of marijuana.
When the medical pot program is put into practice, it will be tightly regulated and there will be opportunities for even those who are approved for medicinal pot use to run afoul of the law. While we can celebrate the legislation as a step towards the end of prohibition, it is still just a small step.