Illinois Cannabis FAQs: Answers for Growers from the State

As promised, today we discuss highlights from the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s recently posted FAQs for medical cannabis cultivation center applicants. Interestingly, Ag’s list of FAQs are much shorter than DFPR’s, despite the grower application process being somewhat more complicated, rigorous, and expensive. Perhaps that confirms what we have been seeing — that many cultivation center applicants will be coming from out of state since Illinois has no residency requirement.The main points of interest are:

  • Growing not yet legal. Despite the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act’s having gone into effect on January 1 this year, growing MMJ is not yet “legal” in Illinois and likely won’t be before early 2015. This is because no growing facilities have yet been licensed by the state. So even if you are completely convinced you will win a license to grow in the upcoming application process, resist the temptation to get a head start on your grow op. If you were to be discovered by the authorities, you would no doubt be disqualified from receiving a license to grow legally in the future.
  • No home grows. This point (like the one before it) is nothing new, but bears repeating. The Act does not authorize patients (even if lawful MMJ card carriers) to grow their own herb.
  • Application fee. As with dispensaries, your application must be accompanied by the application fee (for growers, $25,000) in the form of a certified check or money order.
  • Blind application review. The Department of Agriculture clarified that the application review process will be conducted with de-identified application materials, which makes sense considering Illinois’ intention to award licenses to the best qualified applicants. It is probably safe to assume the process will be the same with regard to dispensaries.
  • No intra-grower business. In response to a question asking whether cultivation centers may sell excess cannabis to other cultivators, the Department answered that no, growers may only sell to dispensaries. This seems like an unnecessary restriction, especially considering the Department’s requirement that growers maintain an “uninterrupted” supply to dispensary customers.
  • Zoning. Like dispensary applicants, a potential grower must only indicate the status of its zoning request — it need not yet be complete at the time of application.
  • Labeling and Branding. A question was posed regarding whether a cultivation center may print other information on its pre-packaged product, such as the name of the dispensary that will be selling the product. The Department of Agriculture responded that so long as product is not packaged to resemble non-medical foods or candy and it makes the consumer aware that it contains a medical product, the Department “has no objection” to a cultivator putting additional information about the dispensary on the label. Hear that dispensaries? This means now is the time to start considering branding and licensing agreements you might possibly need between you and your grower and to start registering your trademarks so as to protect your brand. With such an agreement in place, you can begin to grow a brand and create recognition, while protecting your interests as well.

It is unclear whether the Department of Agriculture will be updating its FAQs as is DFPR, but if it does, we will be sharing them along with our thoughts.