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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 abouthow 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. (Audio available Wednesday 5/01)-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. (Audio available Thursday 5/02)-Susan Stephens with WNIJ in DeKalb reports, attitudes are changing about cannabis use. (Audio available Thursday 5/02)-With conversations about legalizing recreational marijuana, you also may have heard about C-B-D. 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. (Audio available Friday 5/03)-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. (Audio available Friday 5/03)-Reporter Roundtable #2 There may be more questions than answers as state leaders consider their next step. (Audio available Friday 5/03) Features WGLT's Ryan Denham, WSIU/Illinois Newsroom's Steph Whiteside, WNIJ's Sarah Jesmer

Business Improving for Medical Marijuana Cultivator

Tim O'Hern
Rich Egger
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Tim O'Hern is COO of Nature's Grace and Wellness, a medical marijuana cultivation facility. "It's certainly been a learning process for me."

The O'Hern family in west central Illinois has long been involved in traditional farming. They grow corn, soybeans, and wheat, plus they raise cattle. In the last few years they have added another crop to their repertoire: medical marijuana.

State of Cannabis
This story is part of a weeklong series from Illinois public radio stations focusing on the potential impact of marijuana legalization.

"Our head is above water, at least. We think things have gone pretty well," said Tim O'Hern, chief operating officer for Nature's Grace and Wellness, which is one of the state's medical marijuana cultivation facilities.

"The Illinois Medical Cannabis Program started off pretty slowly in 2015 and '16 and on into '17. With some additional conditions that have been added by the legislature and the adoption of the Alternative to Opioids Act, we're starting to see a market increase in patient adoption."

O’Hern said one reason he got into the business was to create economic development in a rural community. The business employs around 35 full-time workers. He plans to expand over the next year and hopes to hire 40 to 50 more employees.

natures_grace___wellness.jpg
Credit Rich Egger
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No signs are posted to mark this as Nature's Grace and Wellness.

Nature’s Grace and Wellness is in Fulton County, not far from the small town of Vermont (population 645).  The steel building is red with white trim. It is surrounded by a chain link fence topped with three rows of barbed wire.

All the growing is done indoors. O’Hern does not know if the business will produce products for recreational marijuana (he prefers the phrase “adult use cannabis”) should the state legalize it.

“We can’t say definitively without seeing what that legislation and rule-making process looks like. It’s certainly something we’d be very interested in participating in if Illinois does adopt an adult use program,” O’Hern said.

He said the rules would also dictate whether the business produces different products for medical and recreational uses. “Many states have different milligram thresholds for recreational and medical products or different dosing.”

The state’s Medical Cannabis Pilot Program expires in May 2020. O’Hern said cultivators are lobbying to make the program permanent.

They also want the state to add to the list of more than 40 qualifying medical conditions for the program.  Chronic pain, migraines, and irritable bowel syndrome are among the conditions they would like added. 

O’Hern said he is one of the people helped by the state’s legalization of medical marijuana.

“We have family members that had conditions that were on the qualifying condition list and saw the benefits of medical cannabis and how it can help people. I myself have multiple sclerosis, which is a qualifying condition in Illinois. And that really framed our point of view on whether to become involved in the business,” O’Hern said.

He said Nature’s Grace and Wellness produces traditional flower products, pre-rolled joints, oil vaporizer products, edibles, and more.

Cultivators pay the state $100,000 for a permit every year. And they pay a 7% tax on what is sold to dispensaries.