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Illinois may soon become the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana. A vote is expected soon by the state Senate to approve a bill passed earlier this year by the state House of Representatives.

The Senate approved a similar package four years ago, so passage this time around is considered likely. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, has said he’s “open minded” about signing the bill and making it law.

Eighteen other states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws on the books. Illinois’ would be among the most restrictive.

A prescription could only be made by a doctor with whom a patient has an established doctor-patient relationship. Patients would not be allowed to grow pot, and they would be limited to two and a half ounces every fourteen days. The conditions for which prescriptions could be issued would be limited to a list of 33, excluding some that marijuana is known to help. The covered conditions are:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • ALS
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Agitation of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cachexia/wasting syndrome
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Severe fibromyalgia
  • Spinal cord disease
  • Tarlov cysts
  • Hydromyelia
  • Syringomyelia
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Arnold Chiara malformation and syringomyelia
  • Spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • Myoclonus
  • Dystonia
  • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD)
  • Causalgia
  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Lupus
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Nail patella syndrome
  • Treatment of any of these conditions (for example, chemotherapy prescribed to cancer patients)

Other disorders eased by medical marijuana, from anxiety and depression to asthma and arthritis, would not be covered. Advocates of the bill have touted it as a model for other states, though it imposes tougher restrictions than any existing state law.

In addition to requiring written approval from a physician who treats the qualifying condition and with whom a patient has a “bona fide physician-patient relationship,” patients would be required to obtain ID cards. As in other states, their names would be recorded in a database.

The number of dispensaries in Illinois would be limited to 59 – one per state Senate district. They would be non-profit and would be regulated by the Department of Public Health. Principals and staff would undergo background checks, and dispensaries would be subject to random inspections. They could not be located within 2,500 feet of a school or share office space with doctors.

Enhanced criminal penalties would apply to growers and dispensaries that violate the law. A simple possession crime that would normally be a class A misdemeanor, for example, would be bumped up to a class 3 felony, punishable by two to five years in state prison.

These tight restrictions haven’t satisfied opponents, however. Police in particular insist the bill doesn’t do enough to protect against intoxicated motorists, though existing sobriety tests use every reliable method to detect drugged drivers.

Regardless, it seems likely Illinois will become the next state to approve medical marijuana, unless the state Senate changes course or Quinn has a change of heart. It remains an open question just how many patients will be helped, but the regulations could resolve problems that have arisen in other states where controls have been looser – notably California.

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About the Author: Matt Brooks

Matt is a journalist from San Francisco who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than six years.


  1. Cindy Roll October 15, 2015 at 10:20 am - Reply

    It should be available for chronic pain. I know it helps it.

  2. Diane Couch January 6, 2016 at 6:42 pm - Reply

    I completely agree I’ve suffered from chronic pain for ten years I’ve been on just about every pain medication out there fentanyl, morphine, ect… Nothing works I have had so many people suggest medical marijuana also anxiety and depression which I’ve heard it also works for those but until you’ve been through it no one can completely understand

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