Batavia man wants to be Illinois` first legal pot farmer - FOX 32 News Chicago

Batavia man wants to be Illinois` first legal pot farmer

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Illinoisans with a serious illness and a physician's prescription will be able to legally buy and use marijuana next year. Governor Quinn formally signed it into law Thursday and three separate state agencies now have four months to draw up rules and regulations.

Medical marijuana has proven to be a very lucrative business elsewhere and in Chicago, entrepreneurs are already lining up. Among them are two consultants whose company is based in Colorado -- where recreational use of marijuana becomes legal this New Year's Eve at midnight. They've been hired by a suburban man who hopes to become Illinois's first legal pot farmer.

Beneath his shaved scalp, said Samuel Franzmann, is a brain battling epilepsy. He said a doctor suggested that using marijuana might let him reduce the dosage of dangerous medicine he takes to control epileptic seizures. It's one reason Franzmann hopes to get one of the 22 licenses Illinois will grant to grow pot here commercially.

"I'm a potential patient myself," Franzmann says. "And obviously there's a business opportunity here."

He got a briefing on Thursday from two commercial marijuana consultants who have just set up shop in Chicago. Their company is based in Denver, a city on the frontier of America's rapidly changing pot laws. They showed Franzmann why he'd need at least $750,000 -- perhaps as much as $1.5 million -- to start up the secure, indoor pot farm envisioned by Illinois's new law. They predicted sales could reach $6 million a year, with annual profits of $3 million, if everything went well.

"What we found from other states is that it's easy to quadruple your money growing medical marijuana," Chris Bochenski with Quantum 9 Consultants explains.

There are obstacles, though. Despite new state laws, federal law continues to ban the growing, selling and using of medical marijuana. Because of that, commercial marijuana companies can't even open a checking account at any U.S. bank. Pot sellers can't buy insurance policies for the same reason. As a result, it's an all-cash business with all the risks that implies, as well as payoff.

"This will be a multi-million dollar opportunity," says Bochenski. "The country's looking at Illinois, because it's going to be one of the most populous states that has a strict medical marijuana program. And this is a significant cash crop."

Another reason the commercial marijuana industry is watching Illinois: if full legalization does not cause major problems next year in Colorado or Washington State, they expect Illinois' massive money problems will lead to its full legalization here. Colorado, with a much smaller population, expects its sales tax on pot to yield $300 million next year.

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