How to Become a Medical Marijuana Patient in Illinois

new law, Illinois medical marijuana, Cook County criminal defense attorney, Illinois defense lawyer, drug crimes, As of January 1, 2014, it is now legal to use medical marijuana (cannabis) in the state of Illinois. Patient registrations are about to begin. However, those who qualify under the new trial program established by the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program must go through a strict qualification process and follow established rules for both acquisition and possession to ensure that they stay within the purview of state law.

It is currently estimated that up to 10,000 Illinois residents have conditions that qualify under the statute. That said, it is extremely important that those who believe that they might qualify follow the rules as set out by the state.

Process of Qualification and Registration

Prospective patients with last names beginning with letters A through L can register in September and October. People with last names beginning M through Z can apply in November and December. Applications, according to state officials, are expected to take up to 30 days to review.

Furthermore, as patients are only allowed to purchase medical marijuana from state-licensed dispensaries, which in turn must rely on in-state crops, it may be as long as spring 2015 before qualified and registered patients can legally obtain their medication via legal dispensaries. It is extremely important to realize that becoming a patient carries both legal responsibilities and considerable penalties that can also lead to expulsion from the program if patients do not comply.

Future Patients Should Consider Speaking to an Attorney

Prospective patients should be aware that they may have to begin making significant lifestyle changes that may involve the expertise of a skilled attorney. These decisions include how to handle driving (currently essentially illegal for all prospective medical marijuana patients), decisions about employment (Illinois law does not prohibit employers from terminating for cause based solely on marijuana use, medical or not), and other issues.

It is also important to realize that being a medical marijuana patient carries significant liabilities.  The state of Illinois has the fifth highest arrest rate for marijuana possession in the country and penalties and fines are stiff for those who fall outside the law regarding medical use – including patients, if they are not in compliance with the same.

There are, per current Supreme Court federal law precedent, no federal civil rights laws that protect users under a “medical exception” to federal law. That said, test cases under the new state law are likely to challenge the same, particularly given the mood nationally about the issue. However, if facing charges related to possession, use, distribution or cultivation, it is extremely imperative that you contact a skilled Illinois criminal defense attorney. At the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney, we are prepared to assist you in any way that we can.

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