Take a look inside a suburban marijuana farm
As Gov. J.B. Pritzker forwards plans to legalize recreational use of marijuana for adults Illinois, a medical cannabis cultivation facility in Elk Grove Village opened its doors to the media Monday in an effort to show the stringent guidelines and quality controls it follows.
But a lingering question for the operators of Illinois Grown Medicine and the Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois is whether the regulations for cultivating recreational marijuana would follow suit.
"It makes you realize what a high level we're at," John Sullivan, a director of the Medical Cannabis Alliance, said during the tour of the 12,000-square-foot Elk Grove facility. "Illinois is the gold standard."
Legislation unveiled by Pritzker over the weekend would allow the expansion of cultivation businesses as well as up to five marijuana plants per home. While Sullivan said he isn't opposed to the latter clause, he wouldn't want homemade marijuana making its way to the open market.
He said he also sees potential for social justice and local economic growth through reinvestment in communities hardest hit by the war on drugs. If the legalization of recreational marijuana is going to build businesses, it should do so in Illinois, Sullivan added.
MCAI Executive Director Pamela Althoff, a former state senator from McHenry, said her first priority is to remind people that the medical marijuana industry in Illinois is still a pilot program and needs to be made permanent with all its high standards intact.
Sullivan echoed that, saying more patients need to replace opiates with cannabis.
Patrick Hogan, who's responsible for research and development at Illinois Grown Medicine, said that was among his prime motivations for using his horticultural background in the cannabis industry.
"I think, at this point, everybody has a story," Hogan said. "I wanted to make sure we're delivering quality to our community."
Operating since 2016, the Elk Grove business is planning to build out into more of the 90,000-square-foot building it currently shares. But while that construction can take place, the company cannot grow more plants without a change in the law.
From its plant nutrition systems to anti-contaminant protocols, Illinois Grown Medicine officials say the operation exceeds the measures of a typical commercial greenhouse. That's because its product standards involve much more than appearances, sales and marketing manager Patty Park said.
"Our philosophy is we're cultivating medicine," Park said. "It's clean. It's pure."
Another current state regulation is that all its inventory -- from the mature "mother plants" to the "clones" grown from clippings -- had its start from seeds rather than having moved adult plants across state lines.
Hogan said the potential effect of the legalization of recreational marijuana will have a lot to do with the regulations that accompany it.
"There are so many different ways that it can go," he said.
But he said his business is ready for the state to require the highest standards.
"We're proud," Hogan said. "It's got that Chicago spirit."