Legislation History 

Illinois passed its first cannabis legislation, outlawing recreational marijuana in 1931 during the height of federal marijuana prohibition. Cannabis use remained illegal until the Cannabis Control Act of 1978. While this law technically legalized medical cannabis, the Department of Human Services and the Illinois State Police never crafted regulations. Finally, in 2013, Illinois passed its first viable medical cannabis law.


In August 2013, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. This bill legalized the cultivation, sale, and use of medical marijuana in the state and charged the departments of Public Health (DPH), Agriculture, and Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) with composing the rules necessary to implement the pilot program.


Illinois started accepting applications for patients, dispensing centers, and cultivation centers in September 2014. Dispensaries began their first sales to qualified patients in November 2015. Recent legislative changes have opened up the program to many more patients.


Since 2013, the law has since been amended to extend the expiration of the pilot program from January 1, 2018, to July 1, 2020, allowing state agencies more time to finalize the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act’s rules. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner also signed legislation that allowed minors younger than 18 to use medical cannabis; added seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and terminal illness to the list of qualifying conditions; and allowed people with opioid prescriptions to qualify for medical cannabis use. This came despite a provision that one could petition the Department of Public Health to add qualifying conditions to the act. 


In 2016, the state decriminalized possession of cannabis less than 10 grams with a $100 to 200 fine, making small-time possession no longer a misdemeanor.


Illinois became the 11th state to legalize marijuana for adult use when on June 25, 2019, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed HB 1438. Senate floor amendment 2 formally legalized the measure,the first in history to legalize cannabis usage via legislation rather than public referendum. The landmark legalization also triggers expungement of hundreds of thousands of records of cannabis possession under 30 grams prior to legalization. The legislation formally goes into effect as sales begin on January 1, 2020, though current medical dispensaries will be able to serve the new adult market if they are waiting for their finalized adult-use license. With the exception of medical patients, adult-use marijuana in Illinois will be allowed only to those 21 and over. 

Regulation Authority 

The Illinois Department of Public Health regulates the medical marijuana program on behalf of patients, caregivers, and physicians. The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is responsible for regulating dispensing centers, of which 55 operate statewide. The Illinois Department of Agriculture has licensed 22 cultivation centers throughout the state.

Purchasing Cannabis 

Registered patients and caregivers may legally purchase medical cannabis at a dispensing center. Medical patients are responsible for a 1% pharmaceutical tax, while cultivators and dispensaries must pay a 7% wholesale tax per sale. Patients and caregivers may purchase up to 2 1/2 ounces, or 70.9 grams, of usable cannabis per 14-day period.


Qualifying patients may purchase medical cannabis only from their chosen dispensary, as indicated in their initial registry application form. A patient can change their selected dispensary at any time free of charge by completing the Medical Cannabis Selection Form

Consuming Cannabis 

Only patients with a valid medical marijuana registry ID card may consume cannabis for medical use. Patients may use cannabis flower, edibles, tinctures, concentrates, drinks, capsules, topicals, and oils as valid consumption methods.


Cannabis consumption is prohibited in any public place or where it would reasonably endanger the health or well-being of another person. Patients are prohibited from consuming cannabis on school grounds, with the exception of minors who may bring their medicine to school and consume under the supervision of a parent, guardian, or caregiver.


Patients may not use their cannabis inside public transportation vehicles or facilities, in public parks, or at beaches. Cannabis use is prohibited in the workplace, as well as in correctional facilities or medical facilities.


Consuming marijuana before operating any vehicle or before undertaking tasks that would constitute negligence or professional malpractice will subject violators to similar penalties as alcohol-related driving-under-the-influence (DUI) offenses. A cannabis task force has until July 2020 to determine what levels of consumption constitute impairment. 

Possessing Cannabis 

Patients may possess up to 2.5 ounces, or 70.9 grams, of cannabis or cannabis products during any 14-day period. Medical marijuana cardholders can transport cannabis inside secured, sealed containers that are inaccessible while driving. Neither drivers nor passengers may consume cannabis inside a vehicle.


Schools, employers, and landlords cannot refuse to enroll employ, or lease an apartment to a medical marijuana consumer solely based on their status as a patient or caregiver.


Patients may not gift medical cannabis. Caregivers can purchase or possess cannabis medicine on behalf of their designated patient only.


As of Jan. 1, 2020, possession limits for residents will be set as follows:

  • 30 grams of raw cannabis flower.
  • No more than 500 milligrams of THC in cannabis-infused products.
  • 5 grams of cannabis concentrates.
How Old Do I Need
to Be to Consume?
Possession Limit
for Flower
Possession Limit
for Concentrates

Home Cultivation

All cannabis medicine must be sold and distributed through licensed dispensing centers. Patients and caregivers may not cultivate their own cannabis or manufacture cannabis products.


As of Jan. 1, 2020, cultivation for personal use will be allowed for adults 21 and over who are growing from seeds purchased at a dispensary. Regulations require that cultivation must be:

  • In an enclosed, locked space;
  • Contain no more than five plants more than 5 inches tall;
  • Be grown out of ordinary public view; 
  • Occur only on residential property owned by the cultivator or with consent of the owner.

Medical Marijuana Registry 

The Illinois Department of Public Health oversees the state’s Medical Cannabis Patient Registry Program. Patients must be at least 18 years old; not hold a school bus driver permit or commercial driver’s license, or be an active duty law enforcement officer, correctional officer, correctional probation officer, or firefighter. Patients can visit the DPH’s website, email the department directly, or call a representative of the Medical Cannabis Program during weekdays for more information.

Qualifying Conditions

  • Agitation of Alzheimer’s disease

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Arnold-Chiari malformation
  • Autoimmune disorders, including:
    • Lupus
    • Myasthenia gravis (MG)
    • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Pain
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndromes (CRPS), including
    • Type I
    • Type II
    • Causalgia
    • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Fibrous dysplasia
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Interstitial cystitis (IC), or bladder pain syndrome (BPS)
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Migraines
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscular disorders, including:
    • Dystonia
    • Muscular dystrophy
    • Myoclonus
    • Severe fibromyalgia
  • Nail-patella syndrome
  • Neuro-Behcet’s autoimmune disease
  • Neuropathy
  • Neurological disorders, including:
    • Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
    • Neurofibromatosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Polycystic kidney disease 
  • Post-concussion syndrome
  • Residual limb pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy, or the treatment of these conditions
  • Spinal cord injury or disease, including:
    •  Arachnoiditis
    • Hydromyelia
    • Syringomyelia
    • Tarlov cysts
  • Spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA)
  • Superior Canal Dehiscence Syndrome
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • Patients with valid opioid prescriptions

Patient Qualifications

Patients must be a resident of Illinois and remain a resident during their participation in the medical cannabis program. Patients must have one of the above qualifying conditions and obtain a written certification from a recommending physician licensed to practice medicine in Illinois. This form is provided to patients as a part of their complete application for a medical cannabis registry card.


Veterans receiving care from the Veterans Affairs (VA) office don’t need to submit a physician’s certification. Instead, they must provide medical records from the VA facility documenting the last 12 months of treatment. These records can be requested electronically or by mail and must be submitted with the patient’s medical marijuana application form.


Minor medical marijuana patients must first obtain a physician’s certification in the course of a bona fide physician-patient relationship that confirms the patient has a qualifying medical condition. A reviewing physician must then review the patients’ medical history and confirm the patient was correctly diagnosed. Both forms must be submitted with a minor’s complete medical cannabis registry application.


Minors may designate one caregiver at no charge inside their own application and may add a second caregiver by submitting a caregiver application and a $75 fee. Minors may only use cannabis-infused products.

Registry Process

  1. Receive a written certification from a doctor to confirm the diagnosis of a qualifying debilitating condition, to be submitted with the medical cannabis application form.
  2. Complete and sign the state’s medical cannabis application form. This form requires prospective patients to choose the dispensary they will visit and to designate a caregiver, as needed. Patients can change their chosen dispensary at a later date.
  3. Pay an application fee. Prospective patients applying for a one-year card pay $100, or $200 for a two-year card, or $250 for a three-year card. The Department of Public Health has halved these amounts for veterans and patients with disabilities.
  4. Include a passport-size photo taken in front of a plain white background.
  5. Prove Illinois residency with two separate documents. Copies of utility bills, bank statements, state IDs, driver’s licenses, and voter ID cards are acceptable forms of proof.
  6. Prove age and identity with a copy of a valid government-issued photo ID.
  7. Include a caregiver application, the accompanying fee, and other forms if a patient requires a caregiver.
  8. If patients are being treated at a VA facility, they can send 12 months of medical records from the VA in the place of a physician’s written certification.

As of August 2018, patients with a prescription for opioids can apply for the medical marijuana program online with a doctor’s written certification. These patients will receive a temporary receipt, which they can present to a dispensary to buy medical cannabis while their applications are in process.

Caregiver Qualifications

A registered caregiver is someone licensed to provide assistance to a registered, qualifying patient with the purchase and use of medical cannabis. To assist a patient, caregivers must carry a medical cannabis registry card.


Caregivers must be at least 21 years old and submit to a background check. Caregivers must never been convicted of a felony. Caregivers must also prove their Illinois residency and agree in writing to assist the patient. Registered caregivers may serve only one patient at a time, and cannot receive compensation for their services.

Caregiver Registry process

  1. Submit a caregiver application either with the designated patient’s application submission or independently at a later date.
  2. Pay an application fee. A one-year registry card costs $25, a two-year card costs $50, or a three-year card costs $75. Any caregiver registering after a patient has received their registry card will pay a $75 application fee for a card that expires at the same time as the patient’s.
  3. Include a passport-size photo taken in front of a plain white background.
  4. Prove Illinois residency with two separate documents. Copies of utility bills, bank statements, state IDs, driver’s licenses and voter ID cards are acceptable forms of identification.
  5. Prove age and identity with a copy of a valid government-issued photo ID.
  6. Provide a fingerprint receipt, with fingerprint scan completed within 30 days of submitting the caregiver application.


Physicians are responsible for providing written certifications that confirm that a patient has a qualifying debilitating condition that qualifies him or her for medical cannabis use. 


To provide a written certification, physicians must complete a full, in-person assessment of the patient’s medical history and qualifying condition in the course of a bona fide physician-patient relationship. The written certification must also state that the patient is in the physician’s continuing care for the treatment of the qualifying debilitating condition.


State law requires that a patient must be a resident of Illinois to hold a medical marijuana registry ID card and to purchase cannabis from a dispensing center. Out-of-state patients are ineligible to buy medical marijuana products. Dispensing centers may sell cannabis only to cardholders of the Illinois Medical Marijuana Registry Program.


As of Jan. 1, 2020, non-residents of Illinois may possess:

  • 15 grams of cannabis flower.
  • 2.5 grams of cannabis concentrate.
  • 250 milligrams of THC in cannabis-infused products.

Lab Testing 

All cannabis and cannabis-infused products must be made available for lab testing as required by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Cannabis and cannabis products must be tested for cannabinoid profiles, pesticides, microbiological contaminants, mycotoxins, and residual solvents.

Licensing for Growers, Manufacturers, Processors, Retailers, etc. 

Licenses for dispensing centers and cultivation centers are regulated by separate authorities within Illinois. The IDFPR granted licenses to 55 medical marijuana dispensaries across the state, many of which are located in the Chicago area. 


Additionally, the Department of Agriculture permitted 21 cultivation centers to grow marijuana legally. Cultivation centers may sell or distribute cannabis products only to licensed dispensing centers or approved testing laboratories.


At this time, Illinois is not granting additional licenses to prospective dispensaries or cultivation centers. In the beginning phases of the medical marijuana pilot program, dispensing centers and cultivation centers had to submit application forms and be approved for licenses. 


Existing cultivation centers must renew their licenses annually and submit a renewal fee of $100,000. Existing dispensing centers must renew their license annually and submit a renewal fee of $25,000. All employees of both cultivation centers and dispensing centers must hold the corresponding agent identification card, procured through the state application.


This page was verified and updated on Aug. 13, 2019.