How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Illinois
How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Illinois
33 U.S. territories have a law that legalizes cannabis for patients with a medical marijuana card. Illinois legalized medical cannabis in 2013, but it has taken years for the program to provide patients with access to treatment.
It wasn’t for another full year – in 2014 – that Illinois even began accepting applications for growers and sellers. Despite the program’s slow progression, the Medical Cannabis Patient Registry Program is in full swing. Today, it’s up-and-running with state-wide dispensaries where you can purchase cannabis products.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about getting a medical marijuana card in Illinois. Find out who qualifies, and the best places to find medical cannabis near you. And get a look at the near-future of cannabis in this state.
Everything You Need to Know about Cannabis in Illinois
Illinois was the 20th state to legalize medical use of cannabis. Technically, it passed the Cannabis Control Act back in 1978, which allowed the state to award medical cannabis cards to qualifying patients. The involved state departments, however, never took any action to provide access to people.
Since former Governor Pat Quinn signed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act in 2013, over 45,000 participants have been approved to purchase medical cannabis products and treatments.
Under his governance, Bruce Rauner did little to help legalization efforts except for signing a bill to extend the Illinois medical cannabis program until 2020. In the years he was governor, Rauner blocked many proposals to expand Illinois medical marijuana program.
In recent months, the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program is expanding the reach, access, and scope of care offered by the state to medical marijuana patients. It reduces some qualifications for new applicants to the program and makes the process less time-consuming.
Illinois Medical Cannabis Patient Registry Program
The Illinois Medical Cannabis Patient Registry Program is part of the states focus on fighting opioid abuse. The Opioid Alternative Pilot Program is the most recent iteration to Illinois’ medical marijuana program. Public Act 100-1114 establishes several changes to make it easier for patients to register for a medical marijuana card.
Since August 28th, 2018, there’s no longer a background check or fingerprint requirement for those registering to the Medical Cannabis Registry as a patient or caregiver. The Act also makes it illegal to charge a patient or caregiver for help in filing an application for the program.
So, you can ask for free help from any participating local health department or cannabis dispensary.
How to Qualify for the Medical Cannabis Program in Illinois
To qualify for the Medical Cannabis Patient Registry, you must meet several qualifications. Harsher restrictions to prospective patients existed prior to the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program.
For example, prior to the exemption from background checks and fingerprints, you were not allowed to have any criminal offenses or convictions.
So, if you had a felony conviction under the Controlled Substances Act, the Cannabis Control Act, or the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act, you’d be unable to get a medical marijuana card in Illinois.
But not anymore. The Opioid Alternative Pilot Program gives those struggling with opioid addiction and many others access to medical cannabis treatment.
You cannot hold a permit to drive a school bus or Commercial Drivers License if you’re applying for a medical marijuana card. If you are a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or correctional officer, you cannot get a card.
Beyond that, applicants must have a qualifying condition to get approval for a card.
To obtain a medical marijuana card in Illinois, you must have a qualifying debilitating condition as approved by the Illinois Department of Health.
In comparison to other states with similar cannabis programs, Illinois is very restrictive. Only the most severe and terminal conditions are permitted onto the list.
Qualifying Debilitating Conditions
To validate your condition, you need a doctor’s diagnosis. Some of the qualifying conditions for Illinois’ Medical Marijuana Pilot Program include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- AIDS / HIV
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Arnold-Chiari malformation
- Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
- Complex regional syndrome Type II (CRPS)
- Epilepsy seizures
- Hepatitis C
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
- Spinal cord disease
- Tourette syndrome
- Traumatic brain injury
- Wasting syndrome
If your condition is not on the list and you think it should be, you can petition the Department of Health to include it. Fill out a petition to add a debilitating condition.
How to Apply for a Medical Marijuana Card in Illinois
If you’re diagnosed with any of the debilitating conditions above, you are eligible to apply for a card.
To successfully gain approval for a medical marijuana card in Illinois, there are a few steps you need to complete. You need a physician’s recommendation as well as all the same documentation you need to rent an apartment.
Be sure to gather all of the necessary submission requirements and documents prior to submitting your application. All of your documents must arrive at the state office within 90 days.
Follow these steps to submit a successful application:
Meet with a Physician
You can get approval from your regular physician or a medical marijuana specialist. Talk to a doctor about why you want to try medical cannabis to treat your condition.
Getting a physician’s consent is the mandatory first step for getting approved for a medical marijuana card in Illinois.
Your Physician Submits a Written Certification Form
Your consenting physician must complete a Written Certification Form and mail it to the Medical Cannabis Division of the Illinois Department of Public Health. Applicant showing up in-person will not be received. The address is:
Illinois Department of Public Health
Division of Medical Cannabis
535 W. Jefferson Street
Springfield, IL 62761
The form must be received by the public health office within 90 days of your application. And the doctor’s recommendation must show an in-person visit within the last 90 days.
Prepare the Required Documents and Fees
In addition to the application, new registering patients must include an application fee. You have a choice of paying for a one, two, or three-year ID card.
Qualifying patients must pay a non-refundable $100, $200, or $250 fee for a one, two, or three-year ID card, respectively. The application fee for patients on Social Security Disability Income or Supplemental Security Income reduces to $50, $100, or $125.
If you’re applying for a caregiver’s ID card, the fee is $25 for one year, $50 for two years, or $75 for three years.
If you are applying by mail, you must include a photograph that is taken within the past 30 days. The picture must be two inches by two inches and taken against a white background. Your face must directly point towards the camera and be void of facial inflection.
A color photocopy of an Illinois State drivers license or State ID card must accompany your application. A photocopy of a passport ID page is also acceptable. You must also submit proof of Illinois residency.
For online applicants, make a PDF and JPEG file for each document photo. The online platform allows you to upload the documents as part of your application.
Submit Your Application
Thanks to the new law, you can apply online for a medical marijuana card in Illinois. The website does not yet support mobile browsers, so use a computer.
To register online, you need a doctor’s recommendation and all of the documentation listed above. Once you submit your online application, you’ll immediately receive a temporary receipt.
The temporary receipt acts as your legal medical marijuana card before your real one shows up in the mail. You use it in place of your card to purchase cannabis products from an Illinois dispensary.
If you don’t want to apply online, you can mail in a hardcopy of your Medical Marijuana Application Form. You must include all of your recommending physician’s information as well as the dispensary location you intend to use.
Getting to Know Your Medical Cannabis Card
As soon as you submit your online application and print off your temporary receipt, you’re a card-carrying Illinois medical marijuana patient.
While your application is being processed, you can make use of temporary receipt at any local dispensary in the absence of your medical marijuana card.
Your permanent card looks a lot like a driver’s license, but with some different information. The top of your card says, “Illinois Department of Public Health Medical Cannabis Registered Qualifying Patient.” On the left side of the card is your headshot – just like a drivers license.
To the right side of your picture is identification information regarding your account. The first piece of information on your card is your name and patient ID number. If you have a caregiver, their name and ID number follow.
Underneath the patient and caregiver information is your address and date of birth. At the bottom of your card is the issue date of your ID card as well as the expiration date. The expiration date will coincide with the expiration date on your caregiver’s card.
In Illinois, you’re only able to purchase medical cannabis products from the dispensary you specify on your application. The dispensary will only admit you with your approved patient ID card or temporary receipt.
Going to a Medical Marijuana Dispensary
Your medical dispensary experience is very different from a recreational dispensary. Medical dispensaries in Illinois are run by medical professionals and licensed by the Illinois State Department of Health.
Be sure to choose the right dispensary for you when you complete the application. In Illinois, you can only purchase medical cannabis products from your approved dispensary.
If you want to change your dispensary, you must complete a Medical Cannabis Selection Form and wait until you receive confirmation that the change has been processed.
Dispensaries in Illinois are mostly located in the Chicagoland area. There are 55 dispensaries state-wide and 21 cultivation centers. Unfortunately, even though a cultivation center might be much closer than a dispensary, patients cannot purchase the product directly from growers.
Each medical marijuana dispensary is licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Cultivation facilities are permitted by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
What’s Next for Cannabis in Illinois?
Illinois already has decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis back in 2016. Those caught with less than 10 grams receive a ticket and a fine of around $200. And it’s likely to see further legalizing efforts in coming months.
At the moment, Illinois is extremely restrictive in how the state grants licenses to use, sell, or cultivate marijuana. Cannabis products are tracked from seed-to-sale along with every step of the way. Even if tracking stays the same, you’re likely to see the full legalization of cannabis in the next two years.
Newly appointed governor J.B. Pritzker has a much more progressive stance towards marijuana than his predecessor, Bruce Rauner. Gov. Pritzker plans to push for recreational legalization of cannabis in Illinois. The effort will, in his estimation, bring in over $700 million in taxes for the state.
The medical cannabis program in Illinois is still in its early days, and access to dispensaries is limited for most residents. If you live in or around Chicago, you have a good selection of dispensaries to choose from.
Now that leadership is in different hands for the state, the medical cannabis program will swiftly work to widen its reach and provide access to more patients.
In the meantime, you might need to take a bi-monthly trip into the windy city to purchase your meds. But, at least patients have access to a non-addictive alternative to opioids in Illinois.
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