medical marijuana conference

Illinois State University’s Katie School of Insurance at the College of Business hosted the Katie School/CPCU Symposium Friday at the Marriott Hotel.

Among the many seminars held throughout the day, two speakers held presentations on the implications of the medical marijuana industry coming to Illinois.

Michael McGrory, partner at SmithAmundsen, LLC, focused on medical marijuana from a legal perspective. No one was doing much in the field with medical marijuana when McGrory joined. However, his experience with clients has been “tremendous.”

“People want to help others, and they’re in it for the right reasons, not only to make a profit,” he said.

There are currently 24 states and Washington D.C. that have legalized medical marijuana, while four states and Washington D.C. have also legalized marijuana for recreational use. About $7 billion will be generated in 2016 from the industry. By 2020, revenue will grow to $22 to $35 billion. 

“It could be a pretty remarkable economy in Illinois if it’s passed,” McGrory said.

Illinois passed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act in Jan. 1, 2014, and it expires Jan. 1, 2018. Areas like patient access, transparency, security and safety are highly regulated under the act. There are currently 60 dispensaries statewide.

Patients with cancer, HIV/AIDs, muscular dystrophy and more are ones that are allowed to seek medical marijuana for treatment.

While various states have legalized marijuana to certain extents, it is still illegal under federal law. Due to this, there are many issues that states and industries run into. One area includes interstate commerce. Since states vary in their laws regarding marijuana use, it cannot be easily transferred across state lines. This affects the ability to sell it to people that live out of state who need the drug for medical use.

McGrory also discussed what the future holds. One concern is whether or not the federal government will legalize marijuana.

“The federal position is the biggest issue we’re facing,” McGrory said. “We think we know where the federal is going, but we don’t know and we don’t know how long it’ll take to get there.”

Joel Smith from Smith Consulting Group spoke on marijuana from a law enforcement perspective and his experiences in Colorado.

Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana in Jan. 1, 2013 under Amendment 64. Patients are issued red cards that register them for medical marijuana use.

Smith joined the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division (MMED) in 2011 when he came to Colorado. This was the first agency of its kind in the country.

“We didn’t really have any idea what we were doing,” Smith said. “We were given a book of Colorado law and we were sent on our way.”

The original MMED ran out of funding due to the processing of renewals. Now the MMED is fully self-funded by licensing fees and renewal fees each year. Smith also discussed the process patients take to access medical marijuana in Colorado. Registered card holders may designate a medical marijuana center as their primary caregiver. Patients may purchase up to 2 ounces per day from their medical marijuana center, or 2 ounces or equivalent of any item like concentrates and edibles.

As of April 1, there are 523 medical marijuana centers. There are 426 stores and 530 cultivation facilities for recreational marijuana.

Ema Sasic is a sophomore journalism major and a reporter and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding her column can be sent to vidette_esasic@ilstu.edu. Follow her on Twitter @ema_sasic.

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