Everything you need to know to buy medical marijuana legally in Illinois

Everything you need to know to buy medical marijuana legally in Illinois

I've experienced debilitating back pain off and on for over a decade.  When the pain gets bad enough, I alternate between taking Aleve and Norco, an opioid which was prescribed for me by an orthopedic surgeon.

Norco makes me feel like I'm floating on a lovely white cloud. I completely understand why people get hooked.

I'm not crazy about taking either Aleve or Norco, but as I said, sometimes I do. But lately, I've been hearing more and more about the benefits of medical marijuana, or cannabis, as many call it.

Since the Illinois Department of Public Health refers to medical marijuana as medical cannabis, I'm going to do the same from here on out.

I'm no expert about medical cannabis. But I talked to someone who is: Leslie Kahn, a cannabis activist and writer. In full disclosure, Leslie is also a friend and a fellow blogger.

If you live in Illinois and are also thinking about giving medical cannabis a try, after you read this blog post, you may want to bookmark it for future reference. Also, be sure to read Leslie's blog. It's a treasure trove of cannabis information.

Below you'll find answers to some basic questions about medical cannabis. In fact, think of this post as a sort of Medical Cannabis for Dummies. The information was culled mainly from discussions with Leslie and  Kirsten Velasco from Illinois Women in Cannabis as well as the Illinois Department of Public Health website.

The information is current as of today. Things may change in the months and years ahead, especially if JB Pritzker is elected governor.

1. How do I qualify to purchase medical cannabis in Illinois?  You must be diagnosed with one of 41 medical conditions such as Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis or Rheumatoid Arthritis to purchase medical cannabis from a licensed dispensary.

Then you can apply for a Medical Cannabis Registry Card.

2. How much does a Medical Cannabis Registry Card cost?

A one year card is $100, 2-year card is $200 and a 3-year card is $250. Low income individuals may qualify for reduced rates.

Caregivers must also have a registry identification card to purchase cannabis at a licensed dispensary or assist a registered qualifying patient with the use of medical cannabis and pay a fee to do so.

3. Can my doctor certify that I have one of the qualifying conditions to get a Registry Card?

Your own physician can send in the certification form on your behalf, however, I have asked two doctors about medical cannabis (my internist and a specialist my husband sees), and they both referred me to other doctors.

If your doctor is not helpful, try this source or check out Leslie's list of medical marijuana-friendly doctors in Illinois. She does not recommend one doctor over another.

4. What else is involved in applying?

You must get a fingerprint-based background check. The cost runs between $50-75. In the Chicago-area, Kirsten recommends Carol Angelopoulos (email: linklivescan@gmail.com or phone: 630-486-2845). For other requirements, check out the Medical Cannabis Patient Application.

5. Once I complete the application and submit it to the state, how long does it take to get a card?

About 80-100 days.

6. Is medical cannabis the miracle cure it's cracked up to be?

Maybe. Cannabis advocates say there are an array of benefits for patients with scores of medical conditions, including Alzheimer's Disease, ALS, Osteoporosis and Prostate Cancer.

However, there is much more anecdotal evidence than conclusive scientific proof about cannabis, and there is still a lot of things that aren't known about it.

Still, solid research has shown there are legitimate medical reasons for using cannabis, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse lists medical uses for it.

According to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, cannabis or cannabinoids, found in the marijuana plant, can be an effective treatment for chronic pain as well as other conditions. Chronic pain, by the way, is the most common reason people request medical cannabis.

7. I'm not wild about smoking cannabis or, for that matter, eating "pot brownies." Are there other ways to feel the beneficial effects?

There are several other ways which you might find more palatable:

A. Vaping.
B. Ingestible oils.
C. Tinctures.
D. Topicals.
E. Transdermal patches.

For more detailed information, check out Leslie's blog post.

8. Will insurance pay for medical cannabis?

No, health insurance does not cover anything connected to medical cannabis.

9. If I don't qualify for a registry card or don't want to spend the money to purchase one, can I still buy cannabis oil and other cannabis products legally?

Kirsten says, "Cannabis products that exclusively contain the cannabinoid CBD are technically legal in all 50 states via the internet because they contain less than .03% THC (The cannabinoid that has psychotropic effects.)." For more details, click here

What this means is that you can buy oils, capsules and salves, etc. online, but they won't be the same chemically as the products you can purchase from a licensed medical marijuana dispensary--and consequently, they may not be as effective. What's more, the products available online are not regulated, with some of them are "a complete waste of money," says Leslie.

Still, if you want to order cannabis oil and other cannabis products online, these high quality brands have been recommended by Kirsten: Mary's Nutritionals, Charlotte's Web and PlusCBD brand. If you would rather speak to someone locally, try: Entourage Clinical Services in West Dundee and Mundelein.

10. How can I learn more about medical cannabis?

 For a wealth of information about cannabis, join the Illinois Medical Cannabis Community Facebook group. 

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