For starters, the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (MCPP) is going to be just fine. For those that missed it, yesterday we learned that coordinator Joe Wright had resigned from his position:
Wright, who resigned Friday, was paid $53,770 last year, according to a public database of state employee salaries. He will be replaced by Jack Campbell, the program’s bureau chief in the Department of Agriculture, Kelly said.
The change in leaders comes as Rauner considers signing a bill to extend the pilot program by 2½ years and adding post-traumatic stress disorder and terminal illness to the list of qualifying conditions. Democratic state Rep. Lou Lang announced last month that he, the Republican governor and the GOP’s House leader agreed to extend Illinois’ four-year pilot program until July 2020.
A transition in leadership of MCPP does not jeopardize patient access to medical cannabis, nor does it suggest any policy changes from the Rauner administration.
We don’t know why Wright resigned, but what matters is that Jack Campbell will do well in the role (presumably pulling double-duty in his prior role at Ag).
Campbell joined the Department of Ag after a 20 year career in law enforcement.
Some might have a gut-reaction against someone who spent much of his career enforcing drug laws, but he has spent the last year learning about MCPP and his recent actions should comfort those enrolled in the program.
At key junctures Campbell has been deliberate, transparent, and fair with the state’s cultivation centers. In my humble opinion, Campbell will seamlessly maintain the program’s status quo, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the program’s persistent issues (delays in new rule making, responsiveness) improve over time.
You may be unaware of exactly what the MCPP coordinator does. The coordinator’s role varies depending on the status of the program. During my tenure I focused on rule-making, patient registrations, competitive license processes for dispensaries and cultivation centers, and outreach to educate the public about the program. Wright oversaw physical site inspections, the first cannabis cultivation, and initial cannabis sales to patients. Campbell’s new role will be to fine-tune aspects of the program that have proven to impede patient access or unnecessarily penalize the businesses, pushing through new administrative rules, managing the selection process for unclaimed dispensary licenses, and hopefully steering MCPP through the next stage of patient growth with the addition of PTSD and terminal illnesses, and extension of MCPP through 2020.
I liken the coordinator role to being the quarterback for the MCPP teams at Ag, IDFPR, IDPH, and ISP. The coordinator does not conduct every inspection of a cultivation center, nor does he/she respond to every patient inquiry, but instead ensures broader goals and timelines are met, and is the final say on complex, unanticipated questions. Illinois is one of the few states that brings together several state agencies to tackle the cannabis program, and it is important for all agencies to follow the same script and work together towards common goals. The coordinator helps counterbalance the tendency of state agencies to work in silos; without a guiding presence agencies do not always play well together in the sandbox. Campbell’s track record gives me confidence that he’ll achieve these tasks as the new coordinator.
My advice to the state’s medical cannabis patient and business community would be to focus on encouraging Governor Rauner to sign SB10. The state’s new Pot Czar is going to be just fine.