Illinois is about to become the 11th state in the U.S. where you can legally purchase recreational marijuana.  Starting January 1st of 2020, Illinois residents over the age of 21 will be able to purchase marijuana and marijuana products from licensed dispensaries that will be opening up all over the state.

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A summary of the HB1438, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act lists the possession limit for Illinois residents as: “30 grams of cannabis flower; 5 grams of cannabis concentrate; and No more than 500 milligrams of THC contained in a cannabis-infused product; and Registered patients in the medical cannabis pilot program may possess more than 30 grams of cannabis if it is grown and secured in their residence under certain conditions.”

If you aren’t a resident of Illinois, don’t worry – you, too, can partake. The limit for people visiting the state is exactly half that for people who live here. That is, you can have 15 grams of cannabis flower; 2.5 grams of cannabis; or “no more than 250 milligrams of THC contained in a cannabis-infused project.”

The journey to legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois has been gradual. Things started with Governor Bruce Rauner first signing the Alternative to Opioids Act in August of 2018, which legalized medical marijuana for pain management, as an alternative to opioids.

That allowed people over the age of 21 to be dispensed 2.5 ounces of weed every two weeks. Almost exactly a year later, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program kicked into effect. That allows medical cannabis for people with what the state views as debilitating medical conditions, such as Autism, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Anorexia, Migraines, and Ulcerative Colitis, among other illnesses. But not everyone in Illinois is celebrating just yet. Certain sects are still subject to federal law, which overrules state law in certain cases like this, and still prohibits the use or possession of both medical and recreational marijuana.

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Chicago Public Housing Residents Can't Consume

For instance, the Chicago Housing Authority is having to warn its residents that because their housing is federally-subsidized or federally-funded, they are subject to federal cannabis laws in their homes. The Chicago Housing Authority said in a statement to The Stash,

 “The CHA and City of Chicago are committed to ensuring a safe, responsible implementation of legalized cannabis next year. To that end, we have begun coordinating efforts with all City departments and sister agencies to inform residents of how the new law affects them.”

The CHA says it will be training its property managers on the laws and how to communicate with residents, as well as meeting with the resident organizations to keep people informed.

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“Our priority is to ensure a safe and responsible implementation of legalized cannabis in Chicago on January 1, 2020 that is fair and equitable to all Chicago residents regardless of where they live,” the CHA explained.

The CHA explained, the smoking ban doesn’t apply to cannabis alone – its residents aren’t permitted to smoke anything of any kind in their homes, including cigarettes, cigars, and so on. Its rule on marijuana is staying the same, even if the law changes for the rest of Illinois. The CHA continued its statement to The Stash, “Similar to the prohibition on smoking in public housing, CHA’s goals are threefold:

  • Educate and inform residents about federal law and how it affects them
  • Support them in their efforts to legally exercise their rights
  • Provide social or clinical support or referrals, where necessary or appropriate.”

The National Conference of State Legislatures says ten other states to approve recreational marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Washington, D.C. now allows it, as well. The NCSL created the map to the right to demonstrate the spread of legal adult-use marijuana. Many other states are considering making the switch, and have bills drafted that still need approval.

Massive Record Expungement

Illinois’ new law doesn’t just legalize cannabis, though. It will also expunge many marijuana-related convictions, and develop a grant program to assist communities that suffered greatly from marijuana being illegal in the state.

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act would allow anyone who was convicted of possession, manufacture, or disbursement of less than 30 grams of marijuana to clear the criminal charge entirely, as long as the initial charge didn’t involve the sell of marijuana to a minor by an adult.

The expungement also only works for people not convicted of any violent crimes. Under that same criteria, people (or the State Attorney’s Office) can file motions to expunge criminal records from possession, manufacture, or sale of up to 500 grams (1.1 pounds) of marijuana.

If your marijuana conviction does involve a violent crime, not all hope is lost – you simply won’t have your record expunged automatically. But, you can still file a motion with the court to vacate the conviction. The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority and the Illinois Lieutenant Governor will be working together to identify communities eligible for the state’s new Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) Program.

The program aims to “address the impact of economic disinvestment, violence, and the historical overuse of the criminal justice system.” A board of 22 people, chaired by the Lieutenant Governor, will review applicants to disperse grants to “address economic development, violence prevention services, re-entry services, youth development, and civil legal aid.” 25% of the taxes earned by the sale of marijuana will go to support the R3 Program. Although cannabis will now be legal in Illinois, it could come with a hefty price tag.

The state is placing heavy taxes on marijuana, which vary depending on the type you’re purchasing. The law lists the taxes as: “10% of the purchase price – Cannabis with a THC level at or below 35% 20% of the purchase price – All cannabis-infused products 25% of the purchase price – Cannabis with a THC level above 35%” The greatest portion of the tax proceeds collected, 35%, will go toward Illinois’ General Revenue Fund. 20% will go to the Department of Human Services to address concerns with mental health and substance abuse, along with the prevention of substance abuse.