Medical marijuana in Illinois: 5 things to know about increase in cannabis registrations

Natalie Pierre
State Journal-Register
The 2021 annual report from Illinois' medical cannabis patient program shows 161,059 people in the state are registered as qualifying medical cannabis patients — a 32% increase over last year (121,775). To qualify, a person must be diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition.

Through the first nine months of this year Illinois has already far exceeded the more than $669 million it did in adult-use recreational cannabis sales in 2020.

September sales totaled $121,717,709.51, compared to the $67,648,362.14 in statewide sales in September 2020.

The monthly report the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation released this week shows $997,067,100.34 in recreational cannabis sales through the first nine months of this year.

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In addition to the significant increase in recreational cannabis sales over the last year, the number of Illinoisans registered for medical marijuana has also continued to grow by a large margin each year.

With the recent release of the 2021 annual report from the state’s medical cannabis patient program, here are five things to know about the continual increase in medical marijuana registrations in Illinois.

1. The increases are significant

The recently-released report shows 161,059 Illinoisans are registered as qualifying medical canabis patients — a 32% increase over last year (121,775). To qualify, a person must be diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition.

The state’s number of qualifying medical marijuana patients for the 2021 fiscal year — July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 — is a 1,990% increase from fiscal year 2016 (7,707) which was the first full year medical cannabis was legally available for purchase in the state.

This year's number of qualifying patients is also more than double that of fiscal year 2019 (76,939).

2. Chronic pain and PTSD top the list

Of the Illinoisans who are qualified medical marijuana patients, 31% were diagnosed with chronic pain. Post-traumatic stress disorder (16%), migraines (10%), osteoarthritis (10%) and cancer (5%) round out the other most heavily represented conditions for those who have medical cannabis cards.

3. Growing number of younger patients 

The latest report shows Illinoisans ages 31-40 make up the largest percentage (21.44) of medical marijuana patients, followed by those ages 41-50 (18.16%).

That is a stark contrast from last year when people ages 61-70 made up the largest percentage of medical cannabis patients (22.08), followed by those ages 51-60 (21.65%).

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The report shows people ages 61-70 make up 16.73% of registered patients, placing them fifth among the six age groups represented.

Last year’s report showed those ages 31-40 made up 15.58% of the state’s registered medical cannabis population — fourth of the six groups, just behind people ages 41-50 (16.95%).

Of 115 minors in the state who are qualified medical marijuana patients, 40 have autism, 32 have PTSD, 11 have seizure disorders and eight have cancer.

4. Increasing dispensary access

In July, Public Act 102-0098 removed the requirement for medical marijuana patients to have one designated dispensary at a time. That made purchases possible at any dispensary.

Public Act 101-0363 decreased the fees to apply for medical cannabis registration by 50%. Signed into law in August 2019, the act also provides physicians the ability to give patients lifelong certifications — limiting renewal requirements to submitting a $50 fee every three years along with showing a valid driver’s license.

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That act also added a number of new qualifying debilitating medical conditions, including autism, chronic pain, migraines and osteoarthritis.

5. A local look

There are 1,587 people who are prescribed cannabis in Sangamon County — a 49% increase over last year. Still, based on the 2020 U.S. Census, that represents 0.8% of the county’s population.

Comparatively, Peoria County’s 1,568 registered medical marijuana patients represent about 0.9% of its population, a 46% increase in registrations over the last year.

Contact Natalie Pierre at or on Twitter @NataliePierre_