7 Reasons to Choose Medical Over Recreational Marijuana in Illinois

April 10, 2024

For adults in Illinois aged 21 and above, getting marijuana legally is relatively easy. All you need is your ID, and you can walk into any dispensary in the state and buy recreational weed. For adults seeking medical marijuana, on the other hand, there are some hoops to jump through, such as getting a recommendation from a doctor and registering with the state, before you can head down to the dispensary. 

Despite this, many people are still opting for medical marijuana over recreational. You may be wondering, if it’s all the same, why bother getting a medical card? Turns out, there are definite benefits to getting a medical card if you are using marijuana for medical reasons. 

While getting an Illinois medical marijuana card requires some effort, many consider the benefits to be worth it. Based on the feedback of patients we have helped get medical cards in Illinois, here are the top reasons for choosing medical marijuana:

  • Cheaper cannabis
  • Greater possession limits
  • The option to grow marijuana at home

These are just some of the benefits of an Illinois medical marijuana card. In this article, we’ll compare medical versus recreational marijuana and walk you through all the advantages we hear about from our patients in the state.

Recreational Weed in Illinois

Illinois legalized recreational weed on January 1, 2020, after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. In the process, Illinois became the 11th state in the US to legalize adult-use cannabis. So, what did the legalization of recreational marijuana do?

  • Adults aged 21 and older can possess marijuana in limited amounts.
  • The legalization law also expunged the records of people with low-level marijuana convictions or arrests.

So far, there are 113 recreational dispensaries in the state where adults 21+ can buy marijuana for medical use. Recreational weed is a massive industry in Illinois. Recently, adult-use cannabis sales totaled $139.5 million in September 2023.

Even though recreational weed is legal in Illinois, there are some details worth considering:

  • Consuming marijuana in public is still illegal.
  • It is dangerous and unlawful to drive under the influence of cannabis.
  • Illinois marijuana laws do not require employers, landlords, and schools to tolerate cannabis use.

The Differences Between Medical and Recreational Weed in Illinois

Medical and recreational marijuana are both legal in Illinois, so what are the differences?


Medical marijuana is only subject to a 1% state retailer occupational tax. Meanwhile, recreational cannabis is subject to several weed taxes in Illinois, and users could end up paying more than 30% in marijuana taxes.


Recreational users only need to show their ID to prove they are old enough to buy marijuana. However, to get medical-grade marijuana you must have a valid Illinois medical card.


Patients with a medical marijuana card can buy up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis every two weeks. However, recreational users can only buy and possess up to:

  • 30 grams of cannabis flower
  • 5 grams of cannabis concentrate
  • Or 500 milligrams of THC-infused products

Benefits of a Medical Marijuana Card in Illinois

1. Medical Marijuana is Cheaper than Recreational in Illinois

The price difference between medical and recreational marijuana is significant. And medical cardholders have a clear advantage. How significant? You could save more than 30% in cannabis costs!

By obtaining a medical card, you can avoid paying the higher taxes accompanying recreational weed. Adult-use marijuana in Illinois is subject to the following taxes:

  • Municipal Cannabis Retailers’ Occupation Tax – not exceeding 3% 
  • Illinois Retailers’ Occupation Tax 6.25%
  • Cannabis purchaser excise tax: 10% – 25% depending on the level of THC

From the figures above, it is clear that recreational marijuana is more expensive than its medical counterpart. If you qualify for an Illinois medical card, you can save a lot on your marijuana purchases.

2. Guaranteed Supply of Cannabis from Illinois Dispensaries

The Illinois medical marijuana card also cushions you against cannabis shortages. This benefit is a big deal, especially if you rely on a steady supply of marijuana for health reasons.

Illinois marijuana regulations mandate cultivators and dispensaries to reserve a sufficient supply of cannabis for medical use. As a result, patients with medical cards are confident their access to much-needed medicine will remain uninterrupted. The same can’t be said for recreational users, who may have to wait during stockouts. 

This exceptional provision ensures that your treatment continues without disruption. 

3. Access Potent Strains of Medical Marijuana

When treating a chronic condition with cannabis, potency matters a great deal. And having an Illinois medical card gives you access to medical-grade marijuana.

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between recreational and medical marijuana is potency. MMJ is designed to target specific symptoms that afflict patients. Meanwhile, recreational weed may provide the perfect buzz in a leisurely context, but it falls short when it comes to long term symptom management.

Medical marijuana, to clarify, is more potent but not always stronger than recreational weed. Often, people will judge the strength of cannabis based on the THC content. However, variables like the THC/CBD ratio and terpene composition matter when using marijuana medicinally. 

Medical marijuana undergoes thorough testing to ensure that it effectively relieves symptoms in patients. Additionally, MMJ products are usually categorized based on the therapeutic relief they provide. As a result, it is easy for patients to find medicine that suits their specific needs. In contrast, recreational weed, if used medically, may require much trial and error– which may not always go too well.

4. Increased Possession Limits

Another benefit of the Illinois medical marijuana card is cardholders can possess twice the amount of cannabis that recreational users can.

The limit for medical cardholders is 2.5 ounces of MMJ every two weeks. Meanwhile, recreational users can only possess:

  • 30 grams of cannabis flower
  • 5 grams of cannabis concentrate
  • 500 milligrams of THC products

Why does a higher Illinois medical marijuana limit matter? This allowance benefits patients needing larger quantities to manage severe conditions. And it eliminates the constant need to restock medicine, making it more convenient and affordable in the long run.

5. Grow Marijuana at Home

One of the most notable perks of  a medical card is being able to grow marijuana plants in your own home. Currently, medical cardholders who are 21 and older can cultivate up to five (5) plants. This opportunity is not extended to recreational users, making it an exclusive benefit for medical patients. 

 Growing marijuana at home as a medical user means:

  • You can save further on marijuana costs.
  • You have complete control over the strains and quality of your cannabis.
  • You can personalize your treatment for more effective symptom management.
  • Having a consistent supply of medicine.
  • Reduced exposure to contaminants since you are in charge of the entire cultivation process.
  • Growing marijuana can be a rewarding learning experience and a worthwhile hobby.

Remember, growing marijuana in Illinois is a privilege, but it also comes with rules, for example:

  • You must secure your plants from unauthorized access.
  • You cannot grow your cannabis plants in public view.
  • You must own the house you are growing cannabis in or have permission from the homeowner to do so.

6. No Age Restriction for Medical Marijuana

Recreational weed is legal for adults aged 21 and over in Illinois. However, waiting until you are 21 to access recreational cannabis may not be feasible if you need to treat a debilitating condition. Medical marijuana is available to patients of all ages. And yes, that includes minors.

Why would minors need to access to medical cannabis? Well, some children suffer from drug-resistant conditions like epilepsy. And without MMJ, such illnesses may significantly compromise a child’s quality of life. 

Still, minors need their parent or legal guardian to consent to the cannabis treatment. Moreover, the parent or legal guardian must serve as the minor’s caregiver. Alternatively, the parent or legal guardian can choose an adult over 21 to do so.

Importantly, children cannot use smokable medical cannabis or vaping products. But they do have access to other forms of medical marijuana.

7. Legal Protection

Illinois medical cardholders have legal protections on education, employment, and housing that recreational users do not.

Since Illinois legalized recreational weed, adults over 21 have gained access to cannabis. Additionally, those with minor marijuana-related offenses had their records expunged. Still, recreational users could get fired for their cannabis use, even if they partake outside work hours. 

The Illinois weed laws do not stop employers from disciplining or terminating employees who do not abide by their drug policies. Also, landlords and schools do not have to tolerate cannabis. 

However, the state’s medical marijuana laws protect patients against discrimination. Your employer cannot fire you because you have a medical card. Nonetheless, using cannabis in the workplace or being under the influence during work hours is still an offense, and having a medical card may not absolve you from disciplinary action.


If you’re using marijuana for relief against the symptoms of a chronic illness, it’s a good idea to get an Illinois medical card. The benefits are worthwhile and give you a significant advantage over recreational users, here’s a summary:

  • Cheaper marijuana
  • Assurance that you won’t run out of medicine in a shortage
  • Access more potent cannabis options
  • Higher possession limits
  • Grow marijuana at home
  • No age limit
  • And legal protections 

Besides the benefits highlighted above, we think there’s an additional advantage that’s even more important to consider. Getting an Illinois MMJ card means you get a licensed medical marijuana doctor working with you to help find the right options for you. A compassionate and experienced cannabis doctor will do more than certify you. They will also customize your cannabis regimen to ensure your overall health improves.

How to Get an Illinois Medical Marijuana Card Online

Getting a medical marijuana card in Illinois may seem daunting, but it’s a relatively simple process. The most important thing is to meet the requirements for a medical card. For example,

  • You must be a resident of Illinois with a state-issued ID.
  • A licensed cannabis doctor must certify you for medical marijuana*.

*This certification confirms you have one of the qualifying conditions for a medical card in Illinois.

Do you meet all the requirements for a medical marijuana card in Illinois? If you do, getting your medical card will be easy. And it only takes a few minutes with Quick Med Cards. We are the cheapest and fastest medical marijuana card providers in the state!

Speak with Our Medical Marijuana Doctor Today

Same-day appointments available.

Questions about the Illinois Medical Marijuana Card Benefits

Do you still have questions about the benefits of an Illinois medical marijuana card? You may find the answer below.

Does insurance cover medical marijuana?

No. Health insurance providers, along with Medicaid and Medicare, do not include medical cannabis as part of their coverage options. Find out more about Medicare and marijuana.

Do you get free weed with a medical card?

No. An Illinois medical marijuana card does not give you access to free weed. But, it gives you access to significantly cheaper weed products compared to recreational users. Recreational users could pay over 30% in taxes for their cannabis products due to the current cannabis tax policies in Illinois. Medical marijuana products are exempt from these taxes.

Is it hard to get a medical card in Illinois?

No. Getting a medical card in Illinois is easy, especially with Quick Med Cards. You can obtain your Illinois medical card without setting foot in the doctor’s office. Because we offer telemedicine, you can see a licensed cannabis doctor over video call and get certified for MMJ. Once you get your certification, register with the Illinois Medical Cannabis Registry Program by completing an online application. Later, you will receive your digital medical card.

Can you grow marijuana in Illinois?

Yes. You can grow marijuana at home in Illinois if you have a valid medical marijuana card and you are at least 21. Ensure to follow these rules when cultivating cannabis at home:

  • You can grow at most five (5) plants.
  • You must secure your plants from unauthorized access.
  • Do not grow marijuana in public view.
  • You must own the house you are growing cannabis or have permission from the homeowner to do so.

Is cannabis legal in Illinois?

Yes. Cannabis is legal in Illinois for both medical and recreational purposes. Illinois legalized medical marijuana in 2013, and the state’s medical cannabis program has been active since 2014. To date, the program has enrolled over 172,000 patients. In 2019, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana in the US.

Does Illinois accept out-of-state medical cards?

No. Illinois does not accept out-of-state medical cards. So, visiting patients cannot use their out-of-state MMJ cards to buy cannabis from Illinois dispensaries. However, Illinois medical cardholders can use their cards to access marijuana in other states. For example,

  • Arkansas
  • Hawaii
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma

It is necessary to understand the reciprocity laws of the state you are visiting before using cannabis. Also, it is illegal to cross state lines with marijuana.

Can you get a medical card at 18 in Illinois?

Yes. You can get a medical card if you are 18 years old. Recreational cannabis is for adults aged 21 and over. However, anyone, including minors (below 18) and adults below 21, can get a medical marijuana card as long as they’re approved by a doctor. Also, children must have a parent or legal guardian consent to their cannabis treatment.