News Local/State

Medical Marijuana Growing, Distribution Licenses Awarded After Delay

A worker cultivates a special strain of medical marijuana in Colorado Springs.

In this Feb. 7, 2014 file photo, a worker cultivates a special strain of medical marijuana known as Charlotte's Web inside a greenhouse, in a remote spot in the mountains west of Colorado Springs, Colo. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

Those in Illinois waiting to buy medical marijuana are now one step closer to being able to purchase their prescription cannabis. The licensing process was delayed by former Governor Pat Quinn.

Gov. Bruce Rauner's office Monday granted licenses to marijuana growers and dispensaries a month after those licenses were initially promised.

Rauner was critical of his predecessor as he granted licenses to 52 dispensaries and 18 cultivation centers around the state. More may be awarded later.

Shelby County Community Services, based in east central Illinois, is one of those 18. The agency's executive director, Tom Colclasure, says he's relieved the wait is over.

"If it had been continued to be delayed, I think there would be more cause for concern," he said. The agency's bid was backed by several local banks. "This seemed to fit with our mission because of the medical application of the product and also providing a business where we could provide jobs for people with disabilities and people in the community to work side by side," he said.

He says he'll spend the next six months building a secure growing center, though he hadn't planned on a February start date.

"(Winter) is probably the worst time to start construction but this has been a better winter than last year for sure," he said.

After the facility is finished, it'll take three months to grow the marijuana plants, so it'll be November before the crop is ready.

The General Assembly approved medical marijuana in spring 2013 as a pilot program, but its implementation had been delayed by a rule-making process.

A study released last month estimated the state’s medical marijuana economy could be worth $36 million dollars by next year, but said the state was losing potential revenue by delaying the release of licenses.