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Despite slow start, concealed carry and medicinal marijuana will have significant effects

Two of Illinois’ biggest and most controversial laws passed in 2013 – concealed-carry permits and medicinal marijuana – officially take effect Jan. 1.

However, their impact won’t be seen for months, according to government agencies.

Illinois State Police will accept online applications to carry a concealed handgun starting Jan. 5 and recently announced the acceptance of paper applications beginning July 1.

More than 2,000 registered concealed carry instructors already are listed on the State Police website, spokeswoman Monique Bond said, but the first permits won’t be issued until early April.

“It could be sooner, but we are going to use the full 90 days to give us enough time to make sure we do it right,” Bond said.

In order to obtain a standard five-year concealed-carry permit, Illinois residents must already have a Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) card, pay a $150 fee, submit to a background check and undergo 16 hours of firearm training with a certified instructor.

Applications will be processed by State Police, which will issue or deny the card within 90 days. Denied applications will be reviewed by the governor-appointed Concealed Carry Licensing Board, whose members have yet to be named.

For similar reasons, medicinal marijuana will not be accessible until well past Jan. 1. Not only will there be a time lapse to process applications for distribution and cultivation centers, said Illinois Department of Public Health spokesperson Melaney Arnold, but government agencies still are determining the specifics of the law’s implementation.

“I would like to give a time frame, but there are so many moving pieces,” Arnold said. “We’re working as quickly as we can to get it out.”

The Department of Public Health is in charge of the certification process for doctors and patients, but several other departments and agencies are overseeing different aspects of the law.

But progress is slow, Arnold said. Even key elements of the law, such as how to approve dispensaries and certification requirements, remain undecided.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” she said. “[The delay] really is because of the enormity of it and making sure we are responsible and do it in a responsible way.”

While still a long way off, the eventual effects of both concealed carry and medicinal marijuana will be significant, according to the laws’ proponents and opponents.

Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said he anticipated the state would see a decline in the crime rate as more gun owners are allowed to carry a weapon on their person. Those worried about an increase in guns on the street needn’t be, he said.

“You’re looking at people who have gone through extensive training and gone through the same
background checks that a police officer gets,” he said.

Colleen Daley, executive director for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence and an opponent of the bill, said while the law has some positives, such as increased background checks, extensive training requirements and prohibited locations, its effect is unclear. She expects to see lawsuits challenge the law, but said first, people need to be educated.

“People are going to be around others who are carrying legal, loaded guns,” she said. “Some are deeply concerned; some aren’t. But the average citizen should be aware that something like this is happening.”

Dr. Eldon Trame, president of the Illinois State Medical Society, said many of the more than 12,000 current and retired doctors in his organization were taking a “wait and see” attitude toward medicinal marijuana and that members were neither encouraged nor discouraged from prescribing it.

“Some physicians are very much in favor of the law and some are very much not in favor of the law,” he said. “But I, at least, will certainly have an open eye and open mind to this.”

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