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Rules temper hopes of business boost from pot

Illinois’ tight regulations will keep impact low

Published: Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014 12:05 a.m. CDT

The economic impact of Illinois’ medical marijuana law will likely be tame, but entrepreneurs jostling for cultivation centers and dispensaries know successfully opening a business means membership in a market light on competition.

The financial effect of the law on a grander scale could be tempered by tight regulations like the state’s limited list of qualifying ailments and the maximum prescription of 2.5 ounces during a two-week period. But the respective limits of 60 dispensaries and 22 cultivation centers means businesses who do successfully enter the market have aligned themselves for a reliable portion of it.

McHenry County is poised to grab at least one dispensary and possibly a cultivation center, experts predict.

“There will be a dispensary somewhere in McHenry County, I am sure of it,” said Rob Deters, a Crystal Lake attorney who has studied and presented on the medical marijuana law. “Someone will see it as an opportunity, and there will be patients here, and there will be people who need it and will sign up and get cards.”

Dan Linn, executive director of the Illinois chapter of NORML, an organization that seeks to reform marijuana laws, said he continues to get frequent questions from business owners looking to open dispensaries.

But to be on track to earn one of the few licenses from the state, entrepreneurs should already have their investors lined up and be knowledgeable of the law, he said.

“I think that the people that are going to be going after this are people that are already pretty wealthy,” he added. “The initial investment is pretty significant.”

Jeffrey DeHaan, a senior financial advisor at BSC Private Wealth Management in Elgin, said that “banks are not lining up to give these people loans to start their small businesses.”

Outside of those seeking a direct hand in the medical marijuana industry, the law’s economic reverberation will likely be subtle.

“You’re going to get a little bit of revenue from local sales tax or fees, but it’s not going to be this gold mine that McHenry County is waiting to tap into,” said Linn.

A cultivation center would offer the county’s best chance at an impact.

The act allows for just one marijuana grower in each state police district. McHenry County – which shares State Police District 2 with DeKalb, DuPage, Kane and Lake Counties – is situated in what might turn out to be one of the most competitive districts.

District 2 is attractive because of its proximity to Cook County – itself a district, but one that might not have the needed large plot of land to fully service its clientele, Linn said.

Still, even if the cultivation center were to buy its agricultural products in-county, McHenry County Farm Bureau Manager Dan Volkers doesn’t see much significance.

“I guess that could change if we go the way of Colorado, but currently I’m not holding my breath for a big business boom,” he said. “If they have them spread out across the state, I don’t see a lot of impact in that regard.”

Deters doesn’t think Illinois will turn into Colorado any time soon, but he said changes to the law in the future could make it easier to get a piece of the profits. He sees particular potential in allowing more than 22 cultivation centers across the state.

“It’s bizarre,” he said of the limit. “I am a little surprised at that, and if there are any tweaks to the law, I think that will be one of the main ones.”

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