Things have gone south for the burgeoning Illinois medical marijuana industry. The previous state governor, Gov. Pat Quinn left office without authorizing business license applications from cultivators and dispensaries. Quinn has left these to his successor, Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Gov. Rauner’s stance on legal cannabis is already know. In his 2014 campaign for office, Rauner stated that he would have vetoed legalizing medical marijuana in Illinois if he been in office. Gov. Bruce Rauner’s criticism for marijuana, medicinal or recreational, has the industry worried what will happen to it under the new governor. If Gov. Rauner forges ahead in the direction his rhetoric points to, it could mean the end of the state’s four-year pilot program for medical cannabis.
This state of limbo Rauner has put the industry in is hurting business owners severely. All their business plans must be put on hold until the governor reaches a decision. Medical marijuana growers and dispensaries have already sunk anywhere from $100,00 to $1 million into applications and legal fees, as well as renting or building work spaces. Investors who helped fund these business are now backing out or growing impatient because of the wait. All this money and effort on the part of marijuana entrepreneurs competing for the state’s 60 dispensary and 21 cultivation license are now looking at pretty big losses.
State Representative Lou Lang, D, who was a major proponent of the bill legalizing medical marijuana, said there are roughly four paths Gov. Rauner could go down. The first is that the governor would do a slow evaluation of all the applications or hit the reset button on the whole program. In effect delaying the whole thing by weeks or months. The second possibility is that Gov. Rauner would do nothing. He’d simply refuse to sign anything, potentially holding up the program indefinitely. The third situation is that Rauner could throw out the Quinn administration’s system for evaluating licenses and develop his own. This too would put the cannabis industry on hold for a long time and could lead to lawsuits and long-term uncertainty. The fourth, and best, possible outcome is that Gov. Rauner does a review of the process and moves forward with giving out licenses.
People within the marijuana industry are starting to take action though, regardless of what the governor decides. Rep. Lang has introduced a bill that, if passed will help extend the life of the medical marijuana program. Some 35 to 40 business applicants and their lawyers met in Chicago to form the Cannabis Association of Illinois and push the issue forward with Rauner. The Rauner administration has given no clear idea of what decision they will make, but it appears that the fate of the Illinois medical cannabis industry is at the mercy of the new governor.