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A Tale Of Two States
Michigan and Illinois take different paths in legalizing medical marijuana By Larry Gabriel
Both situated along Lake Michigan, the states of Michigan and Illinois seem cozy Midwest neighbors on the medical marijuana map. That’s a change. Just a few years back the United States medical marijuana map showed a cluster of states on the west coast and a cluster of states in the northeast of
the nation — Michigan was a lonely outlier in the middle. Then in 2013 the Illinois general assembly passed a medical marijuana bill creating a four-year pilot program for the use of the substance, giving Michigan a little company in the neighborhood. The two states took distinctly different paths to medical marijuana and these paths reflect different trends in how medical marijuana is administered and administrated. The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) was voted into law in 2008. That vote was the culmination of a statewide petition drive that placed the question on the ballot. The result was an overwhelming
win with 66 percent of the vote. That’s the good old way that most medical marijuana states had done it in the past – collect signatures on petitions and fight your way through the courts to get officials to acknowledge the legality of the action. California did it first in 1996. When Michigan became the 13th medical marijuana state, nine of that number had achieved it by petition drives and citizen votes. Since then, of the 10 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized medical marijuana, only two have done it through voter initiatives. As public opinion and medical evidence have
changed, many state legislatures have decided to get out front and legislate on the issue before being forced to do it. That has led to markedly different ways to access marijuana. The main difference is that when citizens vote the law allows patients or a designated caregiver to grow their own marijuana. Most of the states that have gone the legislature route do not allow home grows. Illinois will only allow marijuana to be grown at licensed state cultivation centers. Overall, when the legislature does it the law is more conservative. “It does seem like medical laws written by legislators tend to be more strict,” says Mason Tyvert, of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington D.C. “They have to make compromises with other legislators that might not be as supportive. It’s a good thing that they're trying to do this in the first place – before it was all through ballot initiative.” Making medical marijuana more accessible to patients who need it is important no matter which route the law takes. But the Huffington Post referred to the Illinois law as “The Nation’s Strictest Medical Weed Law,” partly due to the limited number of conditions that are qualified to be treated with marijuana, and the high cost of permits for dispensaries and grow operations — anyone applying needs to have around $500,000 on hand. “It was a decade-long process to get this law passed in Illinois,” says Dan Linn, executive director of Illinois NORML. “Every two years we had to make adjustments to the legislation we were proposing [to accommodate new legislators]. It became more restrictive. There are high barriers to entry for businesses and the pilot program nature of it; all of this was put in to make it feasible for all the politicians.” The Illinois law allows 22 cultivation continued, PG. 5 see Two States
Candidates Cool on Cannabis Illinois politicians in wait-and-see mode regarding marijuana Although there are some distinctions on voters’ choices regarding candidates’ support for marijuana issues in Illinois, there is little heat on the subject. All the fireworks were last year when HB1 was debated and ultimately passed and Gov. Pat Quinn signed it. “Politicians are staying away from it intellectually,” says a political consultant who didn’t want to be named. “They don’t want it hot and heavy.” At this point the state has just started taking applications for cultivation centers
Still there are some things that voters who support easing restrictions on marijuana might want to consider when they cast their votes. Nobody’s going to see any legal medical marijuana for the next several months. Most folks in Illinois are taking a wait-andsee attitude about this. Still there are some things that voters who support easing restrictions on marijuana might want to
consider when they cast their votes. None of the following should be considered an endorsement. In the governor’s race democratic incumbent Pat Quinn is a known entity. He signed the medical marijuana act into law. Republican challenger Bruce Rauner has said, “Medical marijuana is not something I’ve supported but it’s not a big issue for me.” In response Quinn’s campaign has called Rauner “heartless,” pointing out that medical marijuana “will ease pain and provide relief for cancer patients” and others. Quinn seems the solid for protecting access to medical marijuana in Illinois. Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Chad Grimm says he would work to legalize marijuana and would release all prisoners currently behind bars for nonviolent offenses such as possession of marijuana.
Photo courtesy Illinois NORML
By Larry Gabriel
and patient registrations. No actual growing or distribution has started yet for the pilot program that was authorized, which means there is little for candidates to ballyhoo about concerning cannabis.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (standing) holds the just-signed Illinois medical marijuana bill with Daniel Davis (seated) who died earlier this year after seeing the law passed.
Attorney General Democrat Attorney General Lisa Madigan and, challengers Republican Paul Schimpf and Libertarian Ben Koyl have all continued, PG. 7 see Candidates