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There are several current and emerging markets in Illinois for cannabis-related products. Medical marijuana is already legal in the state, farmers are gearing up to grow industrial hemp, and lawmakers could consider a measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Whether or not recreational use becomes legal, the business of cannabis is already established in the Land of Lincoln and our reports are intended to bring you information related to these efforts."State of Cannabis" is a collaborative effort among public radio stations across Illinois.Special thanks to participating stations in reporting and editing:Illinois Newsroom, NPR Illinois, Tri-States Public Radio, WBEZ, WCBU, WDCB, WGLT, WILL, WNIJ, WSIU, WVIK-Reporter Roundtable-- Why are we doing this series now? Features WGLT's Ryan Denham, WSIU/Illinois Newsroom's Steph Whiteside, WNIJ's Sarah Jesmer -From Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, Rich Egger visited a medical marijuana cultivation facility in west central Illinois to get their perspective.-From NPR Illinois in Springfield, Jaclyn Driscoll has been closely covering the issue. She sat down with Sean Crawford to give us an update on the legislative timeline of recreational marijuana.-When Illinois issued the first licenses for medical marijuana businesses in 2015, almost all the recipients were white. We look at what a more racially diverse marketplace might look like if the state legalizes recreational use. From WBEZ in Chicago, Susie An reports.-Existing rules around the Illinois medical cannabis program could make the rollout for recreational use a less daunting task. But there are plenty of unanswered questions at the federal level which could complicate the process. From WNIJ in DeKalb, Chase Cavanaugh reports.-Northwestern Illinois’ Stephenson County is one area where changes in the status of cannabis are being embraced. The people doing it are not necessarily the ones you’d expect. From WNIJ in DeKalb, Guy Stephens has more.-From WSIU and Illinois Newsroom in Carbondale, Steph Whiteside explains how some patients are considering marijuana as an alternative to opioids.-From WCBU in Peoria, Tanya Koonce brings us the view from Peoria with a doctor who talks about how health providers are navigating conversations with patients who are considering marijuana use.-In today’s legal market, there’s more than just your typical joint if you want to get high. There are cookies, gummies, weed-infused drinks and more... but how might these different products affect you? From NPR Illinois in Springfield, reporter Jaclyn Driscoll has more.-The debate over legalization touches on so many thorny issues -- criminal justice reform, health care, and balancing a state budget coated in red ink. But it's also an economic issue. From WGLT in Bloomington/Normal, Ryan Denham visits a small town in central Illinois where medical marijuana has brought new jobs, new tax revenue, and a hope for more.-Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz says she’s concerned about how legalization could impact the juveniles she works with on a daily basis. She’s also concerned about how the state will address cannabis impaired driving. Illinois Public Media’s Lee Gaines recently interviewed Rietz.-Susan Stephens with WNIJ in DeKalb reports, attitudes are changing about cannabis use.-With conversations about legalizing recreational marijuana, you also may have heard about CBD. This is a very different hemp product and it’s completely legal. Sarah Jesmer with WNIJ in DeKalb reports, those in the CBD market are trying to prepare for possible changes on the horizon. -Illinois Governor J.B.Pritzker wants legalize recreational marijuana to provide an economic boost for the state. At Rock Island’s Augustana College, students have different reasoning behind their perspective. Reporter Natalie Spahn from WVIK in Rock Island found out, many identify themselves in the "pro" category. -Reporter Roundtable #2 There may be more questions than answers as state leaders consider their next step. Features WGLT's Ryan Denham, WSIU/Illinois Newsroom's Steph Whiteside, WNIJ's Sarah JesmerRELATED: Marijuana Investor Gives $9 Million To Harvard And MIT For Cannabis Science (WBUR)

More Questions Loom In The 'State Of Cannabis'

Susan Stephens
Steph Whiteside and Sarah Jesmer discuss the questions they still have regarding cannabis in Illinois.

You've heard a series of reports on the potential expansion of Cannabis in Illinois.

For WNIJ reporter Sarah Jesmer, her reporting created more questions than answers.

“I still have questions about why it's taken so long to have such intense discussions about legalization, whether for or against,” Jesmer said. “The Cannabis Control Act [known as the Controlled Substances Act] passed in the 70s. And it's now 2019. I'm interested to see personally how the criminal justice side will be handled on the state level.”

This story is part of a week-long series from public radio stations around the state focusing on the potential impact of marijuana legalization.

For Steph Whiteside with WSIU/Illinois Newsroom, the lingering questions around healthcare come from a lack of data.

“I do know that it's being collected,” Whiteside said. “So what are the conditions people are trying to treat? And what research do we have?”

Whiteside also wonders what it will take to get doctors to talk more openly, especially as medical marijuana is a leading alternative to prescribed opioids.

“How do we make it easier for patients to connect with a doctor who is willing to certify them for medical marijuana?” Whiteside said. “Who is willing to have those conversations? And how do we protect those doctors from fears about losing funding or having their license impacted?”

Ryan Denham

Reporter Ryan Denham with WGLT in Bloomington/Normal says he’s curious to learn more about the permanence of the economic impact of potentially legalizing [recreational] marijuana.

“23,000 new jobs might be created and 2,600 new businesses will be created around the state,” Denham noted. “But those projections are in a vacuum. What if Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kentucky--what if everybody legalizes over the next 10-20 years? What if something happens federally that makes that whole issue moot? What happens to the economic impact questions?”


Steph Whiteside says when it comes to the medical side of the debate, it’s important to make fair comparisons.

“If you are talking about medical use, you're not weighing somebody who's using marijuana against what might be happening to their body if they're using nothing,” Whiteside said. “You're weighing marijuana against other medications that have very strong side effects in many ways.”

Whiteside says doctors she has heard from are very much in favor of regulation.

“There's actually a lot of people talking about if we should regulate edibles,” Whiteside said. “In particular because they appeal to children. If you've ever purchased an edible from a dispensary or you've seen one-- it's a brownie, it's a gummy, or it's a candy bar. So it was interesting how strongly people were speaking out about if we're if this is medicine, we need to treat it like medicine and not disguise it as a treat.”

Jesmer says it’s a very speculative phase and everyone is trying to figure out what it could mean for their lives.

“I think that it comes with the birth of a whole lot of new policies,” Jesmer said. “That can be found in markets, law enforcement, and in the way that you interact with your doctor.”

  • "State Of Cannabis" is an Illinois Public Radio collaboration