Illinois' medical marijuana law "stinks" and should have been vetoed, the state's Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner said during a Tuesday press conference. But medical marijuana advocates say he's just grandstanding to earn votes.
“I don’t think Bruce Rauner has any real interest in going after those [medical marijuana] licenses or any real skin in this game — he’s just going after the governor,” Executive Director of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization For Marijuana Reform Dan Linn told The Huffington Post by phone Wednesday.
Reading from prepared statements, Rauner blasted Illinois' medical marijuana pilot program as incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn's (D) "secret, insider process" that "leaves a lot of questions left unanswered."
The state, which began accepting applications earlier this month, will grant licenses for up to 22 cultivation centers and 60 dispensaries across Illinois. Under the law, which passed with bipartisan support, applicants' names and certain other information will not be made public.
Referring to Illinois' jailed Democratic ex-governor, who is currently serving a 14-year sentence on corruption charges, Rauner called the process for awarding licenses "so overtly corrupt, it would made Rod Blagojevich blush."
Bill sponsor Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) told NBC Chicago that withholding names ensures the state will "choose applicants that have no regard for who you are, who you know, how much money you have, what campaign donations you made and what relationships you may have in the world. The reason that the bill says what it says about disclosing this information is to keep corruption out, not lock corruption in."
Calling Rauner's comments "nine parts grandstanding, one part valid criticism," Linn said that while the GOP hopeful didn't specify which parts of the application he thinks should be made public, there are some parts the public has a right to view.
“Obviously there are things you can't release, like tax info or the security plan. You can't have [applicants] divulge 'We’re going to have the safes in this room,'" Linn said, noting that Massachusetts' medical marijuana application process stripped tax and other identifying information from public record.
"The public should be able to see what [an applicant's] business plan is, their community support, their research plans, what they’ll do to combat any detrimental effects in the neighborhood, their horticultural experience or their track record that verifies them as legitimate growers,” he added. Linn said it wasn't until Rauner's comments Tuesday that the candidate was "even on the radar" with his opinion about the state's medical marijuana law. Linn noted that if Rauner saw the application process as flawed, he could have weighed in during public hearings on the law.
"There was ample time for Rauner to make comments about this — he could have done this in a press conference months ago," Linn said.
Quinn, whom NORML calls "a strong ally" of medical marijuana, couldn't resist a jab back at Rauner. "It's heartless," said a statement from his campaign, that Rauner would have vetoed a law that "will ease pain and provide relief for cancer patients (and) severely ill people."
Chris Lindsey, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, told the Chicago Sun-Times it was "deeply troubling" that Rauner would suggest turning the program into a money maker:
"I’m not sure he understands what the program is for. This isn’t a way to raise revenue. This is a way to provide an option to seriously ill patients. If he wants a money maker he should follow in the footsteps of Washington and Colorado and support a system to tax and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and over. States don’t treat medical marijuana programs as a way to squeeze money from seriously ill patients.”
Though Rauner's comments were roundly criticized by medical marijuana advocates, Linn suggested one way the candidate could recover:
"As a business man, he could make a strong political play and say that he would veto the medical act but support legalizing marijuana entirely and letting the free market exist for legal cannabis in Illinois.”