Medical Marijuana Entrepreneurs Decry Fees

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  Medical Marijuana Entrepreneurs Decry Fees

Posted by CN Staff on April 17, 2014 at 06:02:16 PT
By Robert McCoppin, Tribune Reporter 
Source: Chicago Tribune 

Illinois -- Vegetables, flowers and herbs grow in rows of green at Robert Boyce's greenhouses in Lake Zurich — but what he'd really like to grow is marijuana. Boyce, a horticulturist and landscape design architect, has run Natural Environments Greenhouses and Nursery and a florist shop for many years. He's done work for the Chicago Botanic Garden and several Chicago-area public parks.Yet none of that is enough to qualify for a license to grow pot under the new state law allowing medical marijuana, for which having a green thumb may not be as important as having lot of green to put up.
Under the proposed rules for the new law, Boyce and other would-be pot cultivators need a $2 million surety bond, $250,000 in liquid assets, $25,000 for an application fee, $200,000 for a permit fee and an approved site. The greenhouses he runs wouldn't qualify because they're next to a day camp for kids — one of many siting restrictions that also prohibit growing pot near schools and residential areas."We have the know-how. We have the manpower, the familiarity with growing herbal and medicinal plants, knowledge of building greenhouses," Boyce said. "But right now, you're looking at $3 (million) to $5 million in startup costs."State regulators say actual initial costs could vary widely. But they said they want to ensure that those who seek to run marijuana cultivation centers or dispensaries have the sufficient money to operate, especially early on when they have to make significant investments before generating any revenue.State agencies proposed rules for growing, selling and using medical marijuana in February and received hundreds of public comments in response. Based on the feedback, the state plans to issue revised rules Friday.Most of the public comments complain that the rules governing medical marijuana are too restrictive, for those who want to grow, sell or consume it alike. The most common criticisms were that the $150 patient registration fee is too high, and that the requirement to fingerprint patients and investors is excessive.Some industry operators supported the business fees, saying they would separate the real business people from the dreamers who don't have the money or know-how to start a complicated and expensive business.The proposed rules — involving four state agencies and covering 226 pages — and the critical responses also underscore the wide range of issues that have to be addressed as the state rolls out medical pot. Though the law legalizing medical marijuana took effect this year, with the potential of more public hearings and changes to the rules, it could be 2015 before any medical pot is available to patients.The law allows people with any of about three dozen specified medical conditions — including HIV, muscular dystrophy and complex regional pain syndrome — to get certified by a doctor to receive up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. Caregivers may also get certified to buy and deliver pot to each patient.While Colorado, where pot is legal for medical and recreational use, has hundreds of growers and stores, the new Illinois law allows only 22 cultivation centers and 60 retail stores statewide.That means the Illinois grow houses will be challenged not only to meet strict requirements, such as being monitored round-the-clock by remote video surveillance, but also to crank out a lot of product, while making it consistent and free from pesticides, mold and other contaminants, said Erik Williams, a consultant for Gaia Plant-Based Medicine, based in Colorado.His company opposed fingerprint requirements for minority investors and patients who need relief."To have almost a presumption they're criminals I don't think is the right way to go," he said.Potential patients and business operators have also asked the state to remove a proposal to limit patients to one dispensary, instead arguing that they should be able to choose whatever dispensary they find offers products that best fit their needs.The proposed rules generated interest from a wide array of potential entrepreneurs and patients. A downstate farmer, an international exchange student, doctors, pharmacists, consultants and a mortgage banker, among others, all offered input.The Illinois Hospital Association objected to the requirement that doctors must review 12 months of medical records for each patient before clearing the patient for medical marijuana use. The association recommended that be left up to the discretion of physicians.Others wanted regulations that would be more restrictive, not less.The Illinois Sheriffs' Association asked that state agencies be required to notify law enforcement of any fraudulent applications or violations of the law.Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems suggested prohibiting marijuana resin from the law, warning that its concentrated form was dangerous.And city of Chicago officials asked to change the rules so they have more discretion over where dispensaries can locate."The City would then be in the best position to determine, consistent with statutory and reasonable zoning restrictions, where the dispensing organization should be located," officials said, according to a letter from the city to the state.One commenter, attorney Michael Jaskula, said he had no personal stake in the industry but suggested authorizing lots of small growers rather than a few big ones to promote small business."Regulators have an opportunity here to create hundreds, if not thousands, of well paying jobs for small growers rather than creating yet another giant corporate industry employing minimum wage earners," he wrote.With an Illinois legislative committee expected to take a few months before finalizing the rules, state agencies might be in a position to start taking applications for patients and businesses this fall, Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said. Consultants said it will take about three months to grow the first batch of pot.Permits to begin growing or dispensing medical pot will be awarded based on a point system that has yet to be specified, Arnold said. Generally, each grow center must meet requirements for suitability, staffing, knowledge of laws and rules, product safety and a business plan, with an emphasis on cultivation and security.Dispensaries must also meet requirements for suitability, business plan, knowledge and experience, with the tie-breaking factors being security and record keeping.As the restrictions and fees stand, businesses should expect to lose money in the first two years because of significant required investment, said consultant Silvia Orizaba. Though Orizaba previously worked in the fitness industry, last year she founded the Medical Marijuana Institute. Despite the hurdles, she said she knows of proposals for dispensaries throughout the suburbs, including in Evanston, Deerfield, Downers Grove, Naperville, Niles and Skokie.After initial losses, she predicted, those in on the ground floor stand to make millions of dollars."People that put in the money are going to make a lot of money," she said. "We'll have to make it work with what they give us." Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)Author: Robert McCoppin, Tribune ReporterPublished: April 17, 2014Copyright: 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLCWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 

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Comment #2 posted by boballen131313 on April 18, 2014 at 03:46:12 PT:

After a Day of Watching NatGeo
I have been watching the series 'American Weed' on National Geographic. We only get up to episode 10 in Australia. It tickles me pink (not) to know that the law enforcement individuals depicted in the series still have full employment and still are being paid with tax payer dollars after legalization and unfortunates are still being jailed for Cannabis. What was the reasoning behind this bungle? So city government trumps voter initiatives...? So even though a majority of American voters pass an initiative, the city can hee haw around and deny human rights? Gotta love it! 
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Comment #1 posted by swazi-x on April 17, 2014 at 14:36:16 PT

Corpratocracy Anyone?
Continuing their perversion of the basic idea that this "herb bearing seed" was given to everyone, our masters now make only those with industrial sized bank accounts eligible to grow it for others' use.Prohibition created the black market in cannabis and dictates the street price. The insane profit margins are what tempts people into breaking the law - why wouldn't an honest regulator address this problem? It's literally the ONLY real problem involving cannabis that we face.It's a win-win for those Koch-suckers because it offers exclusivity (read:price support) for commercial growers rich enough to jump in. And if you've got that sort of cash involved you'll fight any change in the law that takes away your near-monopoly and decreases the current black market prices.Whenever "decriminalization" laws preserve the prices that were created by prohibition, you'll find the same sort of people who supported prohibition in the first place.
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