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Rauner Resists Extending Medical Marijuana Program For Now

CHICAGO (AP) -- Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner wants the state's medical marijuana program to be thoroughly reviewed before a decision is made on whether to extend it beyond 2017, according to a spokeswoman.

"The governor believes there is a lot of time left to evaluate a pilot program, and we should not extend the program until it has been fully evaluated," Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in a statement.

The Republican governor's position on extending the program was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.

Rauner was reacting to a bill backed by Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat who sponsored the original medical marijuana legislation. Lang's bill would extend the program four years from when the first dispensary begins officially operating.

The pilot program is scheduled for automatic repeal on Jan. 1, 2018. Because of unexpected delays, businesses aren't yet selling the drug and aren't expected to begin sales until later this year.

Lang said sticking with the original end date for the program would drive up costs for patients and create unnecessary hardship for businesses. "It's important that we put a little more time on the clock," he said.

Meanwhile, 2,000 approved medical cannabis patients have paid to register for the program. Lang's bill would allow those patients to use their registry cards for a year after the first dispensary starts operating without paying a $100 renewal fee.

That part of the bill may not be necessary. Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said the department intends to issue the cards once dispensaries are open and patients won't have to renew their registration until 12 months from the date the registry card is issued.

Officials in Rauner's administration asked Lang to hold off on filing his bill, but Lang said he pushed ahead. He added that the governor "should do his job and I'll do mine."

(TM and © Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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