Illinois doctors fearful of investigation for participating in Medical Cannabis Pilot Program

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Some doctors in Illinois are hesitant to provide referrals for medical marijuana as they hear news of the state medical licensing board and agencies investigating some of the physicians who do provide medical marijuana referrals. While doctors who participate in the practice of making medical marijuana referrals may be operating in compliance with state law, there is always potential for abuse. With the medical marijuana law, the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, in Illinois being relatively new, it is likely there are physicians who do not understand all the requirements and duties under the law. The doctors under investigation could receive a written reprimand or more discipline including the suspension and revocation of medical licenses and privileges.

Requirements for Illinois doctors under the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program

The law requires that doctors and patients have a “bona fide relationship” before a medical marijuana referral may be provided. The physician is required to fully assess the patient’s medical history, review medical records and examine the patient to determine whether they qualify for medical marijuana because they have one of the approved ailments requiring that doctor’s ongoing care.[i] The Illinois medical marijuana laws are written to prevent the walk-in clinic scenario where anyone off the street can walk in the door, pay a fee and obtain a medical marijuana referral. Illinois lawmakers worked to pass a law that better ensured only truly bona fide patients with real need for medical marijuana would be able to obtain that medication through a properly screened system.

Illinois state authorities have not publicly identified any doctors being investigated for violations of the law. There are four known cases of complaints against doctors who have also not been identified.[ii] Generally, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) investigates and disciplines Illinois doctors who violate the law or are suspected of medical malpractice or negligence. There is a dedicated webpage on the IDFPR site addressing the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, with resources and links to relevant law and the structure of the department and its role in overseeing medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and its roles in medical marijuana

IDFPRThe IDFPR also disciplines and may suspend the license and privileges of an Illinois physician who does not practice within the stated requirements and duties under the new medical marijuana law. The number of patients seen and given referrals for medical marijuana may raise a red flag to individuals observing a healthcare practice that provides medical marijuana referrals. Whether a patient truly has a bona fide relationship with the doctor, and whether the patient truly suffers from one of the 39 state approved medical conditions might be the subject of an investigation.

There are several paths that could lead to investigations of doctors participating in the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. Physicians in competition with another could be opposed to medical marijuana. Commercial real estate neighbors may be opposed to medical marijuana patients near their stores and customers. For whatever reason an individual might make a complaint against a doctor, there are protocols and practices to adopt when treating patients and providing medical marijuana referrals. Keeping good notes and being redundant in ensuring compliance with state law is important.

Michael V. Favia represents Illinois physicians and health care practitioners with legal matters related to medical marijuana and the practice of medicine, generally.

Illinois Professional Licensing Consultants 6Chicago health law and litigation attorney Michael V. Favia works with Illinois physicians with medical practice liability concerns and state licensing issues. A former Illinois Department of Professional Regulation prosecutor, Favia is well-known for representing doctors with an intimate level of knowledge and experience in how the professional regulation systems work in Illinois. If you or a physician you know is concerned about compliance with the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program please call Michael V. Favia and Associates, P.C.

Michael V. Favia and Associates, P.C. represents individual physicians and health care organizations in the Chicago area with a variety of legal matters. With offices conveniently located in the Chicago Loop, Northwest side and suburban meeting locations, you can schedule a discrete meeting with an attorney at your convenience and discretion. For more about Michael V. Favia & Associates, please visit and feel free to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” the firm on Twitter. You can also review endorsements and recommendations for Michael V. Favia on his profile and on LinkedIn.

[i] See the Illinois Department of Public Health web page, Medical Cannabis.

[ii] Chicago Tribune, Is risk of state discipline scaring doctors away from medical marijuana, by Robert McCoppin, Feb. 10, 2016.