Wondering how to get a medical marijuana card in Chicago? This article cuts through the confusion, providing a clear, easy-to-follow process for obtaining your card in the Windy City without any fluff.

Initiating Your Application: Physician’s Approval

Once you have a clear understanding of Illinois medical cannabis laws, the next step is to initiate your application for an Illinois medical marijuana card. This process begins with obtaining a physician’s certification. Healthcare provider certifications for the Illinois medical cannabis card can be submitted electronically, and they are accepted from various certified professionals, including:

  • MDs
  • DOs
  • APNs
  • PAs

It’s important to have an in-depth conversation with your physician. Discuss your medical history, the potential risks, and benefits of using medical cannabis. This conversation is a requirement and a crucial step in making an informed decision about your health.

Qualifying Conditions

To be eligible for a medical cannabis card in Illinois, you must have a qualifying condition. Illinois recognizes a wide range of medical conditions for medical cannabis eligibility, including but not limited to:

  • Cancer
  • Hepatitis C
  • ALS
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Chronic pain
  • Migraines
  • Anorexia nervosa

Individuals facing terminal illness, defined as having a diagnosis of 6 months or less to live, can expediently qualify for medical cannabis use in Illinois without an application fee.

For minors under 18 to qualify for a medical cannabis card in Illinois, two healthcare professional certifications are needed, and they must designate at least one caregiver with specific card restrictions.

Veterans’ Access

Veterans have unique access to medical cannabis in Illinois. Veterans receiving treatment at VA facilities for a qualifying condition can use one year of medical records from the VA as an alternative to obtaining a separate healthcare provider certification when applying for the Illinois medical cannabis card.

To maintain their eligibility, veterans must ensure they maintain Illinois residency throughout their participation in the medical marijuana program. This process is designed to provide easier access to medical cannabis for veterans and acknowledge their service to the country.

Assembling Your Documentation

Once you have the physician’s certification, the next step is to assemble your documentation. In Illinois, patients must provide proof of identity and residency, including a government-issued ID, bank statements, utility bills, or a voter ID card, to apply for a medical cannabis card.

For caregivers, there are additional requirements. Caregivers must:

  • Register to assist patients with obtaining and transporting cannabis
  • Upload a photo
  • Demonstrate proof of residency and age
  • Provide identity documentation
  • Submit a signed caregiver attestation form.

Proof of Identity

Proof of identity is crucial to your application. Illinois residents applying for a medical cannabis card must provide a government-issued ID, such as a current Illinois driver’s license or state ID. This requirement also applies to caregivers who must provide proof of identity using an Illinois driver’s license, state identification card, or passport.

While uploading your identification, select an Identification Type such as a state driver’s license, state ID card, or passport. The Illinois Department of Public Health may approve other forms of identification for proof of identity in certain cases.

Establishing Illinois Residency

Establishing residency is another critical step in your application. Applicants must provide two forms of proof of Illinois residency. You can submit a driver’s license or voter card, bank statements, or utility bills as valid documents with your name and address. These are acceptable for verification purposes.

Proof of residency must be uploaded in cases where the driver’s license or state ID card does not match the address listed on the application. The Secretary of State database is cross-checked to ensure applicants have not been issued a commercial driver’s license before the IDPH issues a medical cannabis registry card.

Submitting Your Illinois Medical Card Application Online

Once you have assembled all the necessary documents, it’s time to submit your application. To start the application for an Illinois Medical Cannabis Patient Program (MCPP) card, applicants must:

  • Select the +New MCPP Patient Registration
  • Choose the term for your card: 1 year, two years, or three years
  • Complete all required fields marked with an asterisk in the Patient Information section
  • Upload required documents
  • If waiving the photo requirement, download, complete, and upload a Photo Affidavit form.

The final step in the application includes electronically signing the application, saving it, and then continuing to finalize the application process, which leads to provisional access and, eventually, the permanent card. The Illinois Cannabis Tracking System (ICTS) provides a secure online portal designed to streamline the application process, manage participant eligibility, and allow for the digital printing or downloading medical cannabis registration cards since they are no longer mailed to patients.

Application Fees and Reduced Rates

The standard application fee for a regular patient applying for a medical cannabis card in Illinois is $50 for one year, $100 for two years, and $125 for three years. However, reduced fees are available for veterans and recipients of certain types of disability income.

If qualifying for reduced fees, Illinois residents pay $25 for a 1-year term, $50 for a 2-year term, and $75 for a 3-year term for their medical cannabis card application. To obtain the reduced fee, applicants must affirm their eligibility in the Fees section of the application and upload the required files to provide the necessary documentation.

Provisional Access and Permanent Cards

Upon applying for a medical cannabis card, you receive a provisional access letter that allows you to purchase medical marijuana while waiting for your permanent card. The provisional access letter is available to download immediately after submission of the online application for a medical marijuana card.

Permanent medical cannabis cards are typically issued within 90 days of application submission, assuming all criteria are met, and there are no errors in the application. Once issued, the permanent medical cannabis card is mailed directly to your address, as provided in your application.

Renewal and Recertification of Your Medical Cannabis Card

  • Medical cannabis cards need to be renewed; renewal options include annual extension renewal or full recertification before expiration.
  • Patients can choose a 1-year, 2-year, or 3-year renewal term; a three-year term is automatically set for patients with lifelong conditions.
  • For full recertification (required every three years or at expiration), patients need:
    • An updated online health care professional certification from their certifying health care professional.
    • Submit a new online application, including a new photo and additional documentation.
  • Patients cannot submit extension or renewal applications until they receive a courtesy notification from the Illinois Department of Public Health, sent 45 days in advance for extensions and five months in advance for full renewals.

The Opioid Alternative Pilot Program

In addition to the Medical Cannabis Patient Program, Illinois also has the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program (OAPP). Launched in 2019, the OAPP provides access to medical cannabis for patients with conditions for which opioids could be prescribed.

Illinois residents who are 21 years or older and diagnosed with a condition for which opioids could be prescribed are eligible to qualify for medical cannabis under the OAPP. Registered patients in the OAPP can purchase 2.5 ounces of medical cannabis every 14 days, with a registration fee of $10 for each 90 days.

Engaging with the Medical Marijuana Community

As a medical marijuana patient in Illinois, you are part of a vibrant and growing community. Engaging with the medical marijuana community in Chicago can be facilitated through educational outreach and local events. Maribis LLC, for example, takes an active role in the medical marijuana community by participating in educational outreach.