The (Acapulco) Gold Rush For Medical Marijuana Licensing In Illinois

By Chuck Sudo in News on Sep 23, 2014 9:10PM

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Don't expect Chicago's streets to be teeming with Mystery Machines like this van once the law goes into effect Jan. 1. (Photo credit: Viewminder)

How great is the demand for medical marijuana dispensary licenses in Illinois? So much they may rival the iPhone 6 in popularity right now.

Monday was the last day to apply for dispensary licenses under the state’s Medical Cannabis Pilot Program and state officials were seemingly unprepared for the rush of last-minute applicants, all of them with a backbreaking load of paperwork and a non-refundable $5,000 application fee in tow. (Insert your stoner jokes here.) Program officials noted the (Acapulco) gold rush in a statement and called the applications “voluminous.”

That’s about the best way to guess how many applications were filed, as officials couldn’t even give an estimate on the number of applications filed. The Medical Cannabis Pilot Program will issue only 60 licenses, so these may actually be more in demand than the iPhone, and more valuable. Mark Huddle, an attorney for Illinois Grown Medicine, brought 25 boxes of paperwork to the Thompson Center as part of the application process for five dispensaries in northern Illinois. Huddle told the Sun-Times “everyone from Cheech & Chong types to hedge fund guys” applied for dispensary licenses.

Want to lay odds on who gets the licenses?

It’s a painstaking process to land one of the highly coveted dispensary licenses, part of what Gov. Pat Quinn calls one of the toughest decriminalization laws in the country. Chicago, using its power of home rule, tried to relegate dispensaries and cultivation centers within the city limits to planned manufacturing districts requiring special-use permits from the Zoning Board of Appeals, and establishing minimum spaces based on facility size. But new zoning regulations approved in July by the City Council Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards could potentially allow for medical marijuana dispensaries to be located near the city’s high-traffic tourist areas and tony nightlife districts. The regulations were passed after the state refined language in the medical marijuana law regarding where dispensaries would be located.