Medical marijuana program in limbo but still ringing up costs
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Although the state’s medical marijuana program remains in limbo, with patients and entrepreneurs waiting for the state to get it rolling, it’s not coming cheap.
So far, the startup cost has been more than $1.8 million, most of it for computer software, records show.
The Illinois Department of Public Health, using money from the dedicated Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Fund, has shelled out nearly $1.5 million to Iron Data Solutions Inc. for the software used to house the registry of patients and caregivers allowed to purchase medical marijuana, according to records from the Illinois Comptroller’s office.
The total contract with Iron Data is for nearly $2.6 million, comptroller records show.
The state has also spent about $345,000 for the operation of the program.
Most of that has been spent on salaries and benefits, records show.
Some of the employees paid have worked to determine who should get coveted businesses licenses to make legal medical marijuana available. Among some positions listed are contractual employees whose positions are with the medical marijuana unit for the Illinois State Police, records show.
Some of those employees helped review security plans for cultivation centers, said Lance Trover, a spokesman for Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The state has paid $23,000 to Aon Fire Protection Engineering Corp., which was hired to review security plans for dispensary applicants, Trover said.
Rep. Lou Lang, the Skokie Democrat who sponsored the medical marijuana legislation, said upfront costs are needed to get the program going.
“Both personnel and technology are necessary to run this program,” he said.
Data from Illinois comptroller’s office shows the state has earned $5.2 million in revenue from the medical marijuana program.
Most of the cash came from non-refundable fees paid by prospective marijuana farmers and sellers who applied for the limited and coveted licenses in September. Those applying to grow medical marijuana paid $25,000 per application, and those applying to sell the product paid $5,000 per application.
Seriously ill people, who had to pay a $50 or $100 fee as part of the application process to get into the program, have also given the state a large chunk of cash. Records show they’ve paid out nearly $154,000, but they can’t yet use medical marijuana.
Some patients have said they’re worried they’ll have to shell out the cash again when the yearly permit expires, even though they haven’t been able to use it yet.
“Imagine if their permit expired before the product is even available,” Lang said. “That would certainly be unfair.”
Patients and marijuana entrepreneurs are on edge as Rauner’s administration works to determine what will happen next with the program.
His predecessor, former Gov. Pat Quinn, left office without issuing the business licenses that would have gotten the legal medical marijuana seeds into Illinois soil.
The Chicago Sun-Times first reported Quinn left behind a list of businesses poised to land the coveted licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana when his term ended in January.
Rauner has said he needs to evaluate the recommendations made by the Quinn administration before proceeding.
On Friday, Rauner described what Quinn left behind as a “mess.”
“We owe a duty to the taxpayers and the families of this state to check the process and make sure it’s been done right, according to the law,” the governor said.
He went on to say: “So we’re doing a review right now. We’re going to do it on a timely basis, and in the coming days we’ll be announcing what conclusions we’ve reached and how best to proceed in the process from here.”
Contributing: Stefano Esposito