Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program: A Little More Clarity


We won’t see these types of marijuana jars in Illinois dispensaries, as all products must be packaged at cultivation centers.

Two of our lawyers from our Chicago office attended the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Town Hall Meeting in Chicago yesterday. This is a report from that Town Hall meeting.

More than 500 people were in attendance and many questions were asked of government officials from the Illinois state agencies relevant to Illinois’s pilot medical marijuana program. The meeting lasted over three hours, and the state officials had to limit the number of questions they fielded due to time constraints. The Town Hall brought clarity to some issues, but it also highlighted those areas that remain rife with confusion.

Packaging. Cannabis stakeholders are both unclear and dissatisfied regarding Illinois’ cannabis packaging requirements, as revealed by the large number of questions asked about it. In terms of answers, the panel stated that dispensaries are not allowed to re-package a product they receive from a cultivation center. In other words, every package sold to a patient must be packaged by the cultivation center. The cultivation center must leave room on the package for the dispensary to be able to affix a label with the dispensary’s name on it as well. It is up to the cultivation center to figure out the appropriate package size for a product, and to package it accordingly.

If a dispensary wishes to inspect a sample of a cultivation center’s product, the dispensary may open the package of that product to inspect it, but it then must dispose of that sample within one week — because it will no longer have the cultivation center’s packaging.

The cultivation center is not permitted to put a photo of the product on the outside of the packaging.

Someone at the Town Hall asked about the requirement that “medical cannabis-infused products shall not bear a reasonable resemblance to any product available for consumption as a commercially available candy.” In particular, this individual wanted to ensure that cannabis-infused chocolate would not be considered to violate this clause simply because it is chocolate. The response from Ray Watson of the Illinois Department of Agriculture was that a product would not be disallowed simply because it consists of chocolate, but that it would be disallowed if it resembled an existing candy product’s packaging. Since the product will need to be inside secure packaging (that cannot have a photograph of the product) until it is purchased by a patient, the state is not as concerned with what the product looks like once opened. The takeaway here is that if your edible product attempts to mimic an actual candy product, you probably will not be able to get your product registered by the state in the first place.

Physician Certification Form & Bona-Fide Physician-Patient Relationship. Many attendees expressed concerns about obtaining a Physician Written Certification Form from their doctors. In cases where one is unable to obtain this form from one’s primary physician (one individual talked about how his doctor at the US Department of Veterans Affairs would be unable to execute the form), patients will need to find a new physician. The Illinois State officials reiterated that patients may need to seek a new doctor, but that the physician should not be advertising a cannabis certification, that the physician-patient relationship must consist of more than one visit, and that the physician must review the patient’s previous 12 months of medical records.

Application Allocation. Many attendees sought answers regarding the strategy of submitting multiple applications for cultivation centers, dispensaries, or both. A single entity can own up to five dispensaries and three cultivation centers, but many questions were asked about submitting a number of applications that, if all were successful, would exceed the maximum allowed. The gist of the answers was that it would be a “negative” to any application to need to remove an officer from the application because that officer was successful in more than the maximum number of registrations. The state officials kept stressing the importance of submitting your best plan in your application(s) and that “spreading your resources too thin” could have negative repercussions. Specifically, if you list a Principal Officer on several applications and then need to remove that Principal Officer from a successful application the “successful” “may then be subject to discipline or revocation.” We were actually happy to hear this as this is how we have handled the application process in the other states in which we operate.

Advertising. Cultivation centers cannot advertise to the public, but they are permitted to advertise to dispensaries via direct advertisements (direct mail, email, phone, etc.).

Cannabis Banking. One of our Illinois cannabis business lawyers asked whether the Illinois Department of Health or any other Illinois governmental body was aware of any banks that would open a bank account for a dispensary or cultivation center and whether there would be a list of such banks. The answer was that they were not aware of any such banks and that dispensaries and cultivation centers are on their own with respect to banking.

Working in a Cultivation Center or Dispensary. To work in a cultivation center or a dispensary, you must first be registered as an agent. The agent registration process will be initiated by the Principal Officer on behalf of the employees.

For more on what is happening with Illinois marijuana, check out the following: