Medical pot seminars a growing business
By Casey toner email@example.com March 9, 2014 6:10PM
Charlie Washington, 55, of Park Forest, has organized a two-day seminar in April in Orland Park on how to get into the medical marijuana business. | Casey Toner/Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 11, 2014 6:16AM
Want to get in on the medical marijuana business?
A Park Forest resident wants to teach you the basics of growing and selling the smokeable, newly legal crop — if you’re willing to pay him $300.
Charlie Washington, 55, is organizing a two-day medical marijuana seminar from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 11 and 12 at the Comfort Inn, 8800 W. 159th St., Orland Park. Hosted in conjunction with a Denver-based company, Cannabis University LLC, the seminar will feature a variety of medical, scientific and legal experts.
“What we are doing is showing them what it takes to put a cultivation center that size together,” said Washington, who organized a similar event in Richton Park in February.
Washington isn’t alone in his plans. Ali Nagib, assistant director for the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said he has seen as many as 12 medical marijuana seminars/conferences hosted throughout the state since Gov. Pat Quinn signed the medical marijuana law in August.
“I don’t think the pace of them is going to slow down soon,” Nagib said. “There’s a big interest now that this law is around the corner.”
The new law took effect Jan. 1 and legalizes medical pot in Illinois during a four-year trial period. But the growth and sale of marijuana remains months away while regulations governing it still are being debated in the Legislature. Under the law, up to 60 marijuana dispensaries and 22 growing centers are allowed throughout the state.
Rules proposed by the Illinois Department of Agriculture suggest that growing the plants won’t be as cheap as cultivating garden tomatoes. They would require that all potential medical pot growers submit a $25,000 nonrefundable application fee, proof of at least $250,000 in liquid assets, a $200,000 fee to receive a license and an $100,000 annual license renewal fee.
“If you are looking at this industry to get rich quick, there are lots of other ways to do it,” Nagib said. “If you are someone from Illinois that wants to get job in this industry or prepare for these businesses, these seminars can be really valuable.”
South Chicago Heights Police Chief William Joyce, who campaigned against medical marijuana as head of the South Suburban Association Chiefs of Police, wondered if those at the seminar were really interested in establishing a growing center.
“I think that the class might be a red herring for ‘expanding your farming skills,’ ” Joyce said.
Orland Park police Sgt. Scott Malmborg guessed that Washington and others putting on the for-profit seminars are out to “make a buck.”
“If you get 30 people in this class, that is a chunk of change,” Malmborg said.
He said the seminar appeared to be aimed not at potential, state-licensed medical marijuana growers but marijuana hobbyists.
“You think it’s geared more toward the middle-class person that is working to do something at home, maybe back in the garden or in a patch off the side,” Malmborg said.