The following question was submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "The Law Q&A," ran in the Champaign News Gazette.
How will the new medical marijuana law work? Who qualifies to get it?
The law went into effect on January 1, 2014. But that starts the clock on the four months that the Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Medical Cannabis has to issue the regulations that will detail how the law will work.
Until those regulations are in effect, nobody can apply for a license to grow, dispense, or receive medical marijuana. And it appears that it’ll be 180 days after January 1 before the official database of patients, dispensaries, and growers will be ready.
The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act legalizes the possession and use of marijuana under a doctor’s care.
To become a qualifying patient, you must be at least 18, apply to the Department of Public Health, and pay a fee.
You must clear 2 hurdles just to apply:
- Have your treating M.D. or D.O certify that you have a “debilitating medical condition;” All applicants, except for veterans receiving care at a VA facility, must have their physician submit a written certification confirming their debilitating condition. Veterans must submit the most current year of medical records from the VA.
- Pass a criminal record check.
The law now lists 33 specific debilitating conditions, including PTSD and terminal illness. Public Health can add more. That list and other information can be found at the Marijuana Policy Project.
Medical marijuana is legal in Illinois under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. Currently, buying and using cannabis medically in Illinois is temporary. The program expires January 1, 2020, unless it's extended.
There are medical benefits to ingesting cannabis. Illinois allows you to buy and use cannabis or cannabis-infused products if you have certain medical conditions or if you are terminally ill. To buy and use cannabis, you need to apply for a registry identification card and pay the application fee. The card is valid for 1, 2, or 3 years. A card allows you to buy 2.5 ounces of cannabis from a dispensary every 14 days. You can also purchase cannabis-infused products such as brownies, teas, oils, or lotions.
Fees for getting a card:
- $100 for 1 year
- $200 for 2 years
- $250 for 3 years cards
You must also:
- Be 18 years or older
- Be a resident of Illinois
- Have a signed medical certificate
- Get your fingerprints taken
- Not have a school bus permit or Commercial Driver's License
- Not be an active law enforcement officer, correctional officer, correctional probation officer, or firefighter
If you have a terminal illness with a life expectancy of 6 months, you can get a registry card that is valid for those 6 months. There are no application fees if you have a terminal illness and the process will be quicker.
You can't be discriminated against for using medical cannabis. You can't be discriminated:
- By schools
- By employers
- By landlords
- In organ donations
- For allocation of parenting responsibilities or parenting time
Getting a card costs money. You have to pay an application fee, but you also have your fingerprints taken, visit your doctor so that they can determine if you would benefit from ingesting cannabis, and get passport photos taken. If you are a veteran or receive SSI/SSDI, your fees will be reduced. Insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid don't cover medical marijuana costs.
The IDPH has up to 30 days to approve or deny your application after you've completed and submitted all the forms. You can check the status of your application by emailing DPH.MedicalCannabis@illinois.gov.
After that 3 year period, you will have to renew your application again and pay your fees again.
If you need a caretaker to buy and help you consume the cannabis, you are allowed to designate a caretaker. To designate a caregiver, complete the Designated Caregiver Application here and submit the required documents with your patient application. You will need to fill out a form and pay an additional fee. If you are a minor, you can still apply for a card, but there are different rules.
You are not allowed to get a card if you have a felony related to drug use or violence. If you received this felony conviction while you were possessing, growing, or delivering a "reasonable amount" of cannabis for medical use, you could ask the registering department to waive this conviction. If the conviction is waived, you can get the card.
Also, if the drug-related felony you committed is now no longer considered a crime, you can get a card. Illinois recently decriminalized small amounts of cannabis. If you were convicted of a felony for possessing 10 grams or less, that is no longer a felony in Illinois. You can apply for a card.
Even though the use of medical marijuana is legal in Illinois, you can't grow your cannabis for this purpose. You have to get your medical marijuana from a dispensary.
There are also some places you can't possess or use cannabis, even though you have a card. You can't use cannabis in public. You can't have cannabis in your possession:
- In a school bus
- At a grade school or high school
- In a car, unless it's sealed and out of reach of the driver
- In a correctional facility
If your employer has a drug-free policy at work, you still have to follow that policy. Ingesting cannabis can have a wide range of effects on a user and can decrease the performance of a worker's duties. An employer can have a policy at work related to cannabis, including drug testing and zero tolerance. You can still be punished for violating the policy, including failing a drug test.
Even though you have a card and can legally ingest cannabis, you can still be punished if you're caught:
- With more than the 2.5 ounces
- Driving with more than 5 nanograms of THC in your blood
If you have any questions, you can call the Division of Medical Cannabis at (855) 636-3688 or email them at DPH.MedicalCannabis@Illinois.gov.
Updated: May 2018