Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
In May of 2021, more than 155,000 patients were registered with the Illinois Medical Cannabis Registry Program. The medical cannabis program in Illinois has been so successful that in 2020, there were periods where demand was so high that cultivators could not produce enough for patients. That problem led to some new solutions, including prioritizing patients with a medical card. That means dispensaries must retain a minimum inventory to ensure patients are always provided for before retail adult-use (recreational) buyers.
Are you ready to make an informed choice about trying cannabis to achieve your wellness goals? This page will provide an Illinois cannabis FAQ and resources to help you get started.
In June 2021, Illinois became the eleventh (11th) state to legalize adult-use or recreational cannabis, passing HB 1438. Residents over the age of twenty-one (21) are allowed to possess up to thirty (30) grams of cannabis in public. However, smoking cannabis in public is strictly prohibited. You can be issued a ticket or citation and fine for smoking cannabis in public.
With the legalization of adult-use, comes an opportunity for expungement for any resident of Illinois who has a current or past criminal charge for marijuana possession. There are some restrictions. For example, if the charge of possession was accompanied by a violent crime, a repeat offense, or a trafficking charge, expungement may not be granted. Only people convicted of possession of under thirty (30) grams will be considered for expungement in Illinois.
Residents currently serving a penal sentence or those who have previously served on a cannabis conviction must apply for expungement. The individual must provide their criminal records and have them referred to the Prisoner Review Board.
Next, the Governor (currently J.B. Pritzker) reviews the pardon requests on a case-by-case basis. If approved, the Illinois AG communicates with the applicant to complete the expungement process.
There are benefits to having an Illinois medical cannabis card. Did you know that medical cannabis in Illinois is less expensive than adult-use (recreational) products? Patients with an Illinois medical card can save over 34% tax on every purchase.
To get a medical card in Illinois, patients must have at least one diagnosed debilitating health condition from the following list:
Before you schedule your medical card health evaluation with a doctor in Illinois, make sure that you have a valid photo ID. You will also need a copy of your health records for at least 1-2 years, which the physician will want to review.
If you are the legal guardian of a minor child or an adult with debilitating health conditions, you can apply to the Designated Caregiver Registry in Illinois. As a caregiver, you will be responsible for seeking medical advice on the use of cannabis for the patient. And you will also be required to visit a dispensary to purchase medical marijuana for the patient.
Part of the application process to become an Illinois caregiver includes:
If you meet the criteria to become a caregiver, you can start by visiting the Illinois Department of Public Health and filling out the application form. To make the caregiver application, you will need to pay a fee of $25 for one year. You must be twenty-one (21) years or older to be a cannabis caregiver in IL.
When a state legalizes adult-use cannabis, it is usually good news for medical cardholders because there will be a larger variety of cannabis products.
Currently, in Illinois, a patient with a medical card may purchase:
Unlike other states, in Illinois, dispensaries may cater to both adult-use and patients purchasing medical marijuana. If you are visiting a hybrid dispensary for the first time, it is a good idea to call first to schedule an appointment. That way, you can spend extra time in the dispensary to get suggestions on strains to help with symptom management.
Because of a shortage of cannabis in 2020 for medical cardholders, Illinois has approved more licenses to help increase the number of dispensaries. So far, in 2021, there have been forty (40) new dispensaries approved by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) will be opening soon.
There are many advantages to getting a medical card in Illinois. In order to apply, you must be at least eighteen (18) years old. And you must have one or more of the qualifying conditions (diagnosed) to be eligible for your Illinois marijuana card. Caregivers of minors or adults with debilitating health conditions can also apply on behalf of the patient. Caregivers must be aged twenty-one (21) years or older.
If you are aged 18-20, check this infographic for tips and steps you can take to apply this week. Read: “Getting a Medical Card When You Turn 18”.
Getting a medical card in Illinois is easy for patients who have a qualifying health condition. The first step to getting your Illinois medical card is to schedule an appointment with a certified practitioner or doctor.
A health check or evaluation is required to make sure that medical cannabis is a safe option for you. And it is a good opportunity for patients to ask questions about medical marijuana for symptom management. Patients have two options when it comes to getting their medical card health evaluation. They can visit a practitioner in-office and talk to the doctor 1:1, or they can get a telemedicine visit. With a telemedicine appointment, the doctor can complete your health evaluation, and you don’t have to leave home.
Telemedicine visits start at about $100, depending on the physician. Since Illinois legalized recreational cannabis, is it still worth getting your medical card? Absolutely! There are many benefits, and you will save money every time you visit a dispensary.
Did you know that Illinois was perceived to be one of the most restrictive states with regards to cannabis laws at one time? So much has changed, and the successful launch and management of the Illinois medical marijuana program led to legalizing adult use in the state. In June 2021, Illinois became the eleventh (11th) state to legalize adult-use or recreational cannabis. Illinois was the 20th state to legalize patient use of medical cannabis in August of 2013.
Illinois has banned smoking in public places, including streets and parks. Even if you have a medical card, if you are a patient and own your own house, you can go home and smoke your cannabis without any worries. But that is not the case for all residents of Illinois. People who rent may be forbidden to smoke in their apartments or homes. Even on the balcony. So, if you have a medical card and live in a rented dwelling, where are you supposed to smoke cannabis?
Other concerns about where cannabis can be consumed in Illinois surfaced when adult-use was legalized. For example, states where recreational cannabis is legalized generally see an uptick in cannabis tourism. But where would out-of-state visitors smoke? Hotels and motels also ban smoking of any kind.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot supports a plan to allow recreational smoke shops to purchase a license to enable on-site weed consumption. That would enable established dispensaries to open cannabis cafes and lounges. And significant events like Lollapalooza to apply for a permit to allow a designated area for smoking cannabis. The plan to allow a $4,500 license to tobacco and cannabis shops stalled, but one cafe is set to open. The Luna Lounge opened on July 10, 2021, in a town called Sesser, in Franklin County.
Did you know that using marijuana was legal in Illinois from 1818 until 1931? The 1930s meant a big legal and social backlash against cannabis, resulting in the federal Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. That made cannabis illegal to use recreationally.
1978— The Cannabis Control Act was passed. This allowed patients to access medical marijuana. But the procedure was difficult. Permission was required from two different state departments: both Illinois Human Services and the State Police.
Source Web 2021: www.ilga.gov
July 2016—Decriminalization of cannabis begins, with Gov. Bruce Rauner signing Senate Bill 2228. The punishment for possessing under 10 grams of cannabis was lowered to a $100-$200 fine, with no misdemeanor charge. Impaired driving under the influence of cannabis was set to 5 nanograms/ml of THC in the blood.
Source Web 2021: www.illinoispolicy.org
May 2019— The Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act were passed. And a strong focus was made on social equity, an attempt to compensate for higher than average arrest rates on persons of color (POC). This significant legislation set a goal to finish the expungement of personal-use cannabis charges for residents by 2025. And funds from the sales of cannabis are also allocated to improving resources for black communities in Illinois.
Source Web 2021: www.ilga.gov
June 2020— Gov. JB Pritzker signed HB 1438, which legalized recreational marijuana in Illinois. The bill passed the Illinois General Assembly on May 31, 2019, and a year later, the Senate voted to approve it.
Source Web 2021: www.ilga.gov
Illinois Department of Public Health
Division of Medical Cannabis
535 W. Jefferson Street
Springfield, IL 62761-0001
Phone: (855) 636-3688
Website: Illinois Medical Cannabis Program
Free Help Completing Applications Is Available Through Illinois Local Health Departments here.
The State of Illinois has a legalized medical marijuana program, which allows patients to receive a medical marijuana recommendation from a certified physician, and apply for a state-issued Illinois Medical Marijuana Card, permitting the patient to purchase marijuana for medicinal use, as per Illinois state guidelines.
Since the Illinois medical marijuana program is still changing their laws and new Illinois medical marijuana laws are being enacted on a regular basis, please be sure to visit our site frequently to get the most updated laws as it pertains to the Illinois medical marijuana program. Please click a corresponding link to find out more about Illinois’s Medical Marijuana Program. We have compiled the following Illinois medical marijuana index of information to serve as a medical library to our users for legal reference of Illinois’s laws, guidelines and program details regarding medical cannabis use in Illinois.
Please note: In order to become a legal medical marijuana patient you must first have a qualifying condition as outlined by the department of health services and/or department of justice. For a comprehensive list of Illinois’s qualifying medical marijuana conditions, please visit our qualifying conditions section located on the top of our menu under “legal states”.