Consequences of Getting a Medical Card in Illinois

  1. Illinois Cannabis
  2. Illinois Medical Marijuana Card
  3. Consequences of Having a MMJ Card in Illinois

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Benefits of Having a Medical Marijuana Card in Illinois

The following are some of the benefits of possessing a state-issued medical marijuana card in Illinois:

Legal Protection

Section 25 of the Illinois Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program Act protects medical cannabis cardholders from prosecution for possessing or buying medical marijuana within legal limits in Illinois. Section 10-5 of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act also protects medical marijuana cardholders aged 21 years and older from prosecution for cultivating up to five marijuana plants. However, medical marijuana cardholders are required to always carry their medical cannabis cards when they are in possession of marijuana. Anyone under 21 caught in possession of marijuana in Illinois without a medical marijuana card faces up to 1 year of incarceration and a $2,500 fine.

Lower Prices

Illinois medical marijuana cardholders enjoy lower marijuana prices than recreational marijuana consumers. The state imposes a sales tax of between 1% and 3% on medical marijuana, depending on the municipality, while recreational cannabis sales tax is mostly above 10%. In addition, Illinois imposes an excise tax of 10% or 25% on recreational marijuana, depending on the THC content. Hence, medical marijuana can sometimes be sold at less than half the price of recreational marijuana.

Higher Purchase and/or Possession Limits

Illinois allows medical marijuana cardholders to purchase up to 2.5 ounces (71 grams) of medical cannabis in 14 days, while recreational marijuana consumers can only purchase up to 30 grams of weed. Medical marijuana cardholders can also possess more marijuana than the legal limit of 71 grams if their certifying physicians recommend it. In addition, medical marijuana cardholders in Illinois are typically given priority access to purchase cannabis in marijuana dispensaries, including during times of low marijuana supplies.

Cultivation Rights

Illinois permits medical marijuana cardholders to cultivate marijuana in their residences. They can cultivate up to five mature cannabis plants at home. It is illegal for recreational marijuana consumers in the state to cultivate any amount of marijuana plants at home.

Access for Minors

Medical marijuana cardholders under the age of 18 can possess and consume medical marijuana, while recreational cannabis can only be possessed and consumed by persons aged 21 years or older in Illinois. Although medical marijuana patients between 18 and 21 years can obtain Illinois medical marijuana cards by themselves, patients under 18 years must designate their parents or legal guardians as caregivers to be able to obtain Illinois medical marijuana cards.

Employment Protection

Section 40 of the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program Act prohibits employers from discriminating against medical marijuana patients solely because of their use of medical marijuana. Employers in Illinois cannot deny medical cannabis patients employment or promotion because they use medical cannabis. Illinois treats medical marijuana as any other medication prescribed by physicians. In addition, having an Illinois medical marijuana card protects an employee from repercussions for failing a drug test. However, federal employees in Illinois are not protected by the Compassionate Use of Cannabis Program Act, as marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

Downsides of Getting a Medical Marijuana Card in Illinois

Some of the downsides of getting a medical marijuana card in Illinois are as follows:

Firearm Prohibition

Medical marijuana patients in Illinois are prohibited from purchasing guns in compliance with the Gun Control Act of 1968. The state has no law protecting medical marijuana cardholders who own firearms.

Driving Restrictions

Although Illinois medical marijuana cardholders can drive with marijuana in their possession, they must store the medical cannabis in a tamper-proof container and keep it in an inaccessible area in the vehicle. It is illegal to drive while under the influence of medical cannabis in the state. Illinois limits the acceptable THC level for drivers aged 21 years and older to less than 5 nanograms per milliliter of whole blood or less than 10 nanograms of other bodily substances. Medical marijuana patients under 21 years old are prohibited from operating motor vehicles with any trace of marijuana in their system. The penalty for driving under the influence of cannabis in Illinois is up to one year of incarceration, revocation of driver's license for a year, and a fine of up to $2,500 for first-time offenders. Subsequent offenses attract more severe consequences, up to 7 years imprisonment, $25,000 fines, and/or lifetime revocation of driver’s license.

Annual Renewal

Illinois medical marijuana cards are valid for varying periods. Depending on the cards obtained by patients, Illinois medical cannabis cards must be renewed annually, biennially, or triennially. Medical marijuana cardholders must renew their cards before they expire for them to continue to enjoy the benefits of possessing Illinois medical marijuana cards. As part of the renewal process, patients must be recertified by their certifying physicians. Although Illinois allows physician certifications to be conducted via telemedicine, it is still inconvenient to go through the renewal process periodically.

It costs $50, $100, and $125 to renew Illinois medical marijuana cards with 1-year, 2-year, and 3-year validity, respectively. However, the state offers discounts to veterans and patients on certain federal and state indigent programs. The discounted renewal fees for 1-year, 2-year, and 3-year medical cannabis cards are $25, $50, and $75, respectively. In addition to the renewal fees paid to the state, medical cannabis patients usually pay consultation fees for recertification by physicians. In Illinois, the average cost of a medical marijuana consultation is $125.

Federal Prohibitions

Although marijuana is legal for both medical and recreational use in Illinois, it remains illegal at the federal level. Illinois medical marijuana cardholders cannot apply for federal employment, and there is no employment protection for federal employees who become medical marijuana patients in the state. Also, it is illegal for cannabis patients to reside in or cultivate and use medical marijuana in federally subsidized housing in Illinois.

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