02/03/2015 06:38 pm ET Updated Feb 03, 2015

In Surprise Move, Illinois Governor Issues Medical Marijuana Licenses

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Eighteen months after medical marijuana was legalized in Illinois, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday granted dozens of permits to select businesses to cultivate and sell the drug.

Though medical marijuana patients will still be unable to access the drug for months, the permits come as unexpected good news after a series of frustrating delays getting the state's strict pilot program off the ground.

Outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn (D) failed to issue licenses as expected before leaving office in early January, and just last week, Rauner said he would hold back on issuing licenses until the completion of a legal review process that began under Quinn's watch.

Rauner's administration didn't say how or why the legal review process was resolved so quickly, the Chicago Tribune reports. Part of the task left to Rauner's administration was to evaluate existing business applications to ensure the state wasn't opening itself up to legal liability over unclear procedures, according to Reuters.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports Rauner awarded 18 medical marijuana cultivation licenses and 52 selling licenses on Monday.

In all, the state received 214 applications for up to 60 dispensary licenses and 159 applications for 21 cultivation centers, the Better Government Association reported in September. For the businesses who weren't approved, Monday's announcement added insult to injury: Each hopeful dispensary and cultivation center had to pay a nonrefundable application fee of $5,000 and $25,000, respectively.

Ali Nagib, the assistant director for the Illinois arm of the nonprofit advocacy group National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told The Huffington Post last month that most advocates and lawmakers are anticipating medical marijuana patients will have access to the drug "sometime between late spring and early fall of this year."



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