CHICAGO — A public hearing on Illinois’ new medical marijuana program turned into an informal networking session with would-be growers, retailers and patients collecting business cards and sharing trade secrets.

The Monday hearing in Chicago drew about 200 people. Two dozen testified in response to proposed rules for the state’s four-year pilot program. Pharmacists said they should be involved. Patients asked for lower fees. A businessman promoted a Colorado company’s expertise in growing and selling.

Political consultant Roberto Caldero of Chicago says the atmosphere was similar to “a gold rush” with people “trying to stake out their claim.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health plans a second hearing May 21 in Springfield. Written comments are being taken through June 2.

ASSOCIATED PRESS