QCA looking to become part of medical marijuana industry

Black Hawk College still maintains a zero tolerance policy.

As of January 1, 2014, medical marijuana is now legal in Illinois. Governor Pat Quinn and his administration are seeking ways to sanction medical marijuana and keep it out of the black market. Rock Island County is currently looking at possible sites to grow and distribute the marijuana.

One possible site for dispensing the drug would be in Moline at the vacated Holland Jewelers building. Although excitement is running high within the community, there are still issues that need to be addressed to satisfy state law requirements. One of the biggest requirements is one cannot grow or distribute the medical cannabis near schools or parks. Something to remember is this is still just a “pilot program”. This means if the state of Illinois does not renew the program or create a new law, the program will cease to exist after four years from the date of the law going into effect.

It also may be quite difficult to become a qualifying patient for medical marijuana. Illinois has started accepting patients whose last names begin with the letter A through L. Applicants with the last name of letter M through Z may start applying in November. Only certain illnesses and diseases will be admitted as medical marijuana patients.

To qualify for medical marijuana, one has to have a five year relationship with a doctor and have one of thirty four qualifying medical conditions. The basic conditions are HIV/Aids and Glaucoma. Also included among these thirty four conditions are Crohn’s disease and severe fibromyalgia. One immediately qualifies if seizures are present, including those characteristic of epilepsy. In addition to these conditions, the Department of Public Health will include additional conditions at its discretion.

Legislature will continue to consider improvements to marijuana-related laws this year. Three bills were passed this year to reduce or remove criminal penalties for those found with up to 30 grams of cannabis. Bill HB 5708 eliminates any criminal record for a marijuana related offense of up to thirty grams; however, such criminal records can continue to hurt employment, housing and public assistance. Two other bills passed are HB 4299 and HB 4091. These bills lower penalties and fines, but still leave a person with a damaging criminal record and reputation as well.

Patients who do qualify for medical marijuana still have to abide by school and employer drug policies. For example, at Black Hawk College, the guide for university and college administrators is enforced. This means there is zero tolerance for drug or alcohol distribution or use on school property. Also, a court ruling allows employers to fire employees if they test positive for marijuana, even if marijuana is legal in the state that the employer resides.

Lieutenant J.W. Ferguson of the Black Hawk College police is in support of medical marijuana if it is approved for legal use in the state of Illinois. “I am not opposed to it and I will comply with the law,” he said. He continued to explain that we do have a zero tolerance policy at Black Hawk College, so medical marijuana will not be permitted on campus or campus owned facilities. Ferguson added that states that have legalized marijuana have “a lot of abuse because it is a gateway drug.”

When asked if marijuana will be on the ballot for recreational use, Ferguson replied, “It will probably be legal in the future, although it may be two years or maybe even ten years.” Also, when asked if the state of Illinois would be successful in gaining tax revenue from medical marijuana sales, Ferguson replied, “It has worked for other states so it should work in Illinois.”

Although this is a pilot program, hopefully medical marijuana becomes legitimate for those who need it most and is here for the long term.