College of Law > Academics > Centers, Institutes & Initiatives > Mary and Michael Jaharis Health Law Institute > e-Pulse Blog > medical-marijuana-coming-to-il

Medical Marijuana is Coming to Illinois

The use, sale, and possession of cannabis in the United States is a federal offense under 28 U.S.C § 841. However, some states have create exemptions for medical cannabis use, or have decriminalized non-medical cannabis use altogether.
On August 1st, 2013, Governor Quinn signed the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act (House Bill 1/ Public Act 98-122), making Illinois the twentieth state to allow medical cannabis. The Act establishes a four-year pilot program under which an individual who suffers from a medically-recognized condition can register with the state in order to obtain cannabis for medicinal use. [1​] The purpose of the Act is to not only protect patients with debilitating medical conditions, but physicians and providers from arrest and prosecution if their patients engage in the medical use of cannabis. [2]

Illinois follows in the footsteps of nineteen other medicinal marijuana policies implemented by other states; however, without a set federal stance on the issue, policies vary drastically from state to state. California, the early pioneer in medicinal marijuana, and Illinois, one of the newest adopters, are prime illustrations of the state by state policy variances. California’s program started in 1996 with the passage of the Compassionate Use Act and its subsequent amendments; Illinois enacted the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act in the summer of 2013.

The most glaring difference between the two states’ plans considers the level of government oversight on possession and cultivation. California’s patient and caregiver registration scheme is only optional, which suggest a more lax policy on California’s end. [3] As long as the physician recommendation requirement is fulfilled, California seems satisfied.  Illinois, however, hopes to monitor medicinal marijuana users much more closely by mandating patient and caregiver registration with the state’s Department of Public Health. [4]

In addition to allowing private non-profit, state-recognized collectives of growers to maintain large quantities of marijuana for patient purchase, California authorizes individuals to grow their own marijuana for personal medical use. [5]  In a 2004 amendment to the Compassionate Use Act, the California legislature set a generous baseline limit for individual cultivation and possession of 6 mature plants or 12 immature plants, and eight ounces of processed marijuana. [6] Additionally, local authorities are free to make this baseline limit even more liberal, but cannot reduce it. [7] Illinois’s law, on the other hand, explicitly forbids any personal cultivation of medicinal marijuana, a rare prohibition among states that have decriminalized medicinal marijuana. [8] Instead, Illinois will license only twenty-two growers and sixty dispensaries around the state, and registered patients and their caregivers with a physician recommendation can obtain marijuana only from a dispensary. [9] Unlike California’s permissive individual possession limit, Illinois restricts a patient to purchasing 2.5 ounces of cannabis every fourteen days. [10]

These differences suggest that as long as the federal stance on medicinal marijuana remains unsettled and ambiguous, states will continue to regulate the substance however they choose. States may feel fairly secure at this moment that their authorized medicinal marijuana users will not be prosecuted, but the federal government still retains its power under the CSA to prosecute these patients.  Implications for the future are unclear, but seemingly optimistic for cannabis users.




[1] The Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, Pub. L. No. 98-122.

[2] Id.

[3] Cal. Health and Safety Code § 11362.5 (West 2007).

[4] 2013 Ill. Legis. Serv. P.A. 98-122 (H.B1)(West).

[5] Cal. Health and Safety Code § 11362.5 (West 2007).

[6] Cal Health and Safety Code § 11362.7 (West 2007).

[7] Id.

[8] 2013 Ill. Legis. Serv. P.A. 98-122 (H.B1)(West).

[9] Id.

[10] Id.