Health & Human Services

Illinois: No Guns for Pot Smokers

January 22, 2014
 

Patients who want to qualify for medical marijuana in Illinois would have to be fingerprinted for a background check and pay $150 a year -- and give up their right to own a gun, state officials proposed Tuesday.

The plan outlines how adults who have any of 41 specified medical conditions, such as cancer, AIDS or complex regional pain syndrome, may apply to get a patient registry identification card to purchase medical pot.

The proposed rules are the first in a series of parameters expected to be outlined over the course of the year to govern how medical marijuana can be legally grown, sold and purchased. The Illinois Department of Public Health will take public comment on this set of rules until Feb. 7 and then submit them to a legislative panel for approval by the end of April.

Most of the rules address how a patient can qualify for an ID card to buy up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks -- or more if a doctor certifies that it's necessary.

One new proposal states that a qualifying patient or caregiver may not possess a firearm, even if they have a state firearm owner's identification card or concealed carry permit, and violators may be subject to sanctions by state police.

Todd Vandermyde, lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said the NRA takes no position on the issue but that the rule seems to be an attempt to interpret federal law. A U.S. Department of Justice firearm application form asks if the buyer is "an unlawful user" of marijuana or other controlled substances.

Illinois regulations make clear that pot possession is still prohibited by federal law, and the state denies liability for damages arising from the program, including federal prosecution. "It presents a novel legal conundrum," Vandermyde said. "The courts are going to have to reconcile it."

The rules would allow patients to designate a caregiver who could legally purchase and carry marijuana for them. Patients and caregivers would undergo a background check by Illinois State Police and would be rejected for any felony conviction for a violent crime or for possession of a controlled substance, including marijuana or methamphetamine.

A proposed exception would be if the patient proves that a drug conviction involved "a reasonable amount (of) cannabis intended for medical use," and that the patient had a debilitating medical condition at the time.

Also, each patient must be at least 18 and have a "bona fide" relationship with a doctor who would certify the patient's medical condition.

The state would have 180 days to act on an application. A patient would need to reapply annually to maintain the certification.

The possession or use of marijuana would be banned on school grounds or school buses, in any other vehicle and at child care businesses and correctional facilities. An exception is made to transport marijuana in a vehicle if it is in an inaccessible sealed container. Smoking marijuana also would be prohibited in health care facilities, anywhere that tobacco smoking is prohibited or in "any public place where an individual could reasonably be expected to be observed by others."

The law also would prohibit use of medical marijuana by police officers, firefighters, school bus and commercial drivers, and anyone who is not a qualified patient.

On the production side, cultivation centers would need to track inventory and have 24-hour surveillance systems. They could not operate within 2,500 feet of a school, child care center or residential area and could not sell directly to the public, only to registered dispensaries.

The state Department of Agriculture still must develop rules for cultivation centers, and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation still must draw up rules for dispensaries. The proposed patient registry rules were developed by Bob Morgan, medical marijuana coordinator and legal counsel for the Department of Health, in consultation with staff members and officials from other states that have medical marijuana, agency spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said.

She expects tens of thousands of applicants, and many comments from the public.

Patient applications will be accepted for those whose last names start with A through L in September and October; the remainder may apply in November and December. After that, all applications will be accepted year-round.

A nine-member advisory board of health professionals and one patient advocate, all appointed by the governor, will review proposals for adding ailments to the list of qualifying conditions. The Department of Public Health director will make the final decision.

Illinois is the 20th state to allow medical marijuana.

(c)2014 the Chicago Tribune

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