The Compassionate Use Act in Illinois, a pilot program, legalizes the use of marijuana to those who are registered as ?qualifying individuals? and caregivers.? Put simply, the Act makes the use and sale of marijuana, also known medically as cannabis, legal in the State of Illinois. However, under federal law, the Controlled Substance Act still states that it is illegal to grow, distribute or possess cannabis, characterizing the drug as a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal . This means that Congress has found that cannabis has no accepted medical use and is therefore illegal under federal law.
Now that we have the technicalities of the laws regarding marijuana, what does this mean for the State of Illinois?
What You Need to Know as a Registered Patient
As a registered patient, there are several things you should know about Medical Marijuana use in Illinois. Since this is a four year Pilot Program, there will be additional regulations introduced, so by keeping current with changes and additions to the program will be a good practice. Updates to the program are located on the State of Illinois Medical Cannabis website.
First, expect to be fingerprinted along with a background check upon application to the program. In addition, there is a set fee for a specialized photo ID for each registered patient.
Next, know that in order to be accepted into the program, a patient must be diagnosed with what the statute defines as a qualified debilitating medical condition. The patient must be diagnosed with a condition from this list and receive a recommendation from a physician. The physician must be a doctor licensed to practice and with good standing in Illinois, have a controlled substances license, and he or she must have a bona fide relationship with the patient. Further, physicians cannot accept payment from qualifying patients unless the fee is associated with the examination performed in order to issue the written certification to receive medical marijuana.
However, don?t think it ends there, as a patient cannot just go get a medical marijuana prescription filled at a local pharmacy like other drugs from a doctor. Medical marijuana must be acquired from dispensaries, which are becoming available within the State of Illinois, as federal law prohibits any health professional from prescribing Schedule I controlled substances. Thus in Illinois, doctors can only recommend the use of medical cannabis for patients by adhering to various requirements for diagnosing and treating qualifying registered patients.?Once you have a recommendation from a doctor, you will receive the Identification Card, and from there, there are certain rules that all users must follow in order to remain compliant. Some of the rules include:
- Registry cards from other states are not acceptable in Illinois, and you are not protected under Illinois law if you are visiting from another state and are found to be in possession of marijuana
- Only Illinois State residents may apply to obtain a card for the program.
- Patient cards that are issued need to be renewed, which means the patient will need ongoing consultations with a doctor to make sure the medical condition still exists.
- A caregiver can act on behalf of a medical marijuana patient with certain limitations.
VA Care and Cannabis in Illinois
Veterans do not need written certification from their physician to apply for a card if the veteran has been treated for a debilitating condition previously by a VA doctor. Veterans can quality for the program by being an Illinois resident, and must show proof of residency. Once the veteran has been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition, he or she maythen provide a copy of VA Form 10-5345 or a copy of the veteran?s DD214 or equivalent certification. A fingerprint and background check as well as the non-refundable application fee is required along with each veteran application to the program.
A ?designated caregiver? is a person who is selected by the registered patient as authorized to possess and obtain cannabis from a dispensary on behalf of the patient. The caregiver is also issued an identification card that allows the person to posses up to 2.5 ounces of medical cannabis for the patient. However it goes without saying that the only person who can legally consume the cannabis is the registered patient. Caregivers can serve only one patient and cannot be a qualifying patient themselves.
Under this act, no employer can discriminate against an employee solely because the employee has medical marijuana status. Further, an employer?may not refuse to hire or attempt to discharge an individual on account of the individual using medical marijuana, so long as the employee is using a lawful product away from the workplace and during nonworking hours.
However, under this act, nothing shall prohibit an employer from enforcing company policy concerning drug testing, or shall limit an employer from disciplining a registered patient for violating workplace drug policy. Also, an employer will not be limited under the Act should an employee fail a drug test that places the employer in violation of federal law.
Other Legal Information
The Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program does not offer legal advice. So, if law enforcement should visit a registered patient?s home, the patient should inform the officer that he/she is part of the pilot program and produce a registered identification card. It is best that you consult with a private attorney to discuss your rights and protection once becoming a registered patient. Since this is a pilot program only at this time, and involves a Schedule I controlled substance, a registered patient or a caregiver may not be protected from criminal liability under federal law.
Your best course of action is to get expert legal advice from the attorneys at Sherer Law Offices regarding patient rights and representation under the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. Contact us today!