CHICAGO (AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration is running out of time to announce who will receive potentially lucrative licenses to run medical marijuana businesses in Illinois.
The Chicago Democrat’s administration had promised the decision by the end of 2014, but still hasn’t made it. The governor now has only days before handing control of the state to Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, who will be sworn into office Monday and already has begun several days of pre-inaugural activities.
Quinn has said his administration is simply trying to move with caution. The political ties of some applicants have come under scrutiny, but Quinn’s aides have said the unidentified panelists scoring the applications won’t know the identities of the applicants, only their qualifications.
The Quinn administration didn’t immediately comment Friday when asked about progress on the license selection process.
Quinn could leave the decision to Rauner, but that could lead to further delays. Rauner has criticized the selection process as secretive and subject to cronyism. During the campaign, Rauner suggested auctioning the licenses to the highest qualified bidders.
“A Rauner administration will review the status of the program and act accordingly,” Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said Friday.
Further complicating the matter is that Illinois has collected more than $5 million in nonrefundable fees from the applicants. It’s not clear if that money would be returned should Rauner push the reset button.
The Illinois law authorizing a four-year medical marijuana pilot program has been in effect for a year. Delays in awarding business licenses hold up the planting and harvesting of the first legal crop. More than 650 patients have paid $100 for a medical marijuana card they can’t yet use.
“These people have been waiting a long time and it’s a shame for whatever reason the process is being delayed,” said Kurt Florian, president of the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago. He said he called the governor’s office to urge action this week and that his group sent an email blast asking others to do the same.
Another caller to the governor this week was Mayor Dennis Pauley of Rock Island, who said medical marijuana businesses in his city would be an economic boost.
“We need to get this done before the new governor takes office,” the mayor said. “We have a lot of patients out there who don’t need additional delays.”
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