Illinois officials keep medical pot under wraps
SPRINGFIELD -- It's unclear if Illinois officials will release complete information about companies seeking to grow or sell medical marijuana in Illinois because the state law that legalized medical marijuana exempts prospective companies' applications from open records laws.
The application period opened Monday and will close Sept. 22. Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for Illinois' medical marijuana pilot project, said the state won't release any information about the number of applicants until after the deadline.
"We're still working through the mechanics of the selection process," she said.
The lack of transparency will make it difficult to determine whether state regulators will show favoritism for companies with strong political connections, former state Sen. Susan Garrett, who oversees the Chicago-based Campaign for Political Reform, told the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers (http://bit.ly/YwEZ3S ). Nobody should be denied this information, she said.
"There should be reason to prevent the public from having access to these applicants," Garrett said. "If this process is clout-driven, taxpayers have the right to see it."
Lobbyists and former government officials have already begun to team up to compete for the 22 growing center licenses or 60 dispensary licenses.
Applicants must pay a $5,000 nonrefundable application fee to sell marijuana and a $25,000 fee to grow it. The chosen companies will then pay annual permitting fees ranging from $30,000 for dispensaries to $200,000 for growers.
In an email Tuesday, Arnold suggested some information might be released after the winning applicants are announced.
But, she said, "Unfortunately the law does not allow us to release the information you are requesting at this time."