Illinois’ recreational weed laws went into effect on January 1, 2020. Read on to learn where the Prairie State’s regulated cannabis industry stands one year later and how you can get legal weed in Illinois.
Possession and Purchasing Limits
Illinois residents age 21 and over will be able to possess:
- Up to 30 grams of cannabis flower
- 5 grams of concentrate
- A maximum of 500 mg of THC within a cannabis-infused product
Medical patients who are registered in the medical program are permitted to possess more than 30 grams of flower if they personally grow and secure the excess quantity. Non-residents of Illinois will be able to possess:
- 15 grams of cannabis flower
- 5 grams of concentrate
- A maximum of 250 mg of THC within a cannabis-infused product
Cannabis can be purchased from an Illinois-regulated dispensary, most of which are licensed to sell both medical and recreational cannabis.
Social Equity Program
One of the most socially powerful aspects of Illinois’ recreational law is the intentionality with which it approaches social equity through cannabis reform. The Drug War, particularly enforcement of cannabis prohibition, has wreaked havoc on marginalized communities.
As Gov. Pritzker said in a statement, Illinois’ “equity-centric approach” to cannabis reform “will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance.” The program will include the following initiatives:
- the creation of a $30 million low-interest loan program designed to assist with the startup costs of opening a licensed cannabis business. The loan will be available for qualifying social equity applicants.
- the creation of a “social equity applicant” status for Illinois residents or those who employ them who have been convicted of a drug related crime that would be expunged under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.
- the establishment of an investment program designed to Restore, Reinvest, and Renew to address economic development, violence prevention services, re-entry services, youth development, and civil legal aid.
- an avenue for the expungement of non-violent, drug-related crimes
At the end of 2020, Gov. JB Pritzker revealed that nearly 500,000 cannabis records have been pardoned or expunged at the state in compliance with the social equity mandates outlined in Illinois’ law. Local jurisdictions have until January 21 to expunge cannabis arrest records.
Due to the Covid epidemic and problems scoring social equity applications, Illinois’ deadline to award 75 social equity licenses last summer was delayed, disappointing hundreds of social equity applicants who fear that they will lose the investors, real estate and capital they secured in order to complete their applications. At the beginning of 2021, only 21 applicants qualify for the lottery of 75 available social equity licenses.
The public consumption of cannabis is prohibited. This includes the following locations:
- school grounds (medical users are exempt)
- motor vehicles
- correctional facilities
- in close proximity to someone under age 21
Consumers can use cannabis in a private residence as long as use is hidden from public view. Landlords and higher education institutions have the right to ban cannabis use. Illinois recreational cannabis laws made it possible for local jurisdictions to approve cannabis lounges, social establishments where cannabis consumers can purchase cannabis and consume it on site. Springfield is the first Illinois city to approve a cannabis lounge. The Illinois Supply and Provisions consumption lounge will be the first of its kind in the state. It’s set to open in April 2021.
Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal in Illinois. Drivers with 5 nanograms or more THC in their blood will be found guilty of a DUI. Penalties include a license suspension for up to 6 months for a first-time offense (subsequent offenses within 5 years can lead to 1 year’s suspension).
According to Federal and Illinois law, it is illegal to take cannabis across state lines even if you are coming from or returning to a cannabis-legal state. If you are visiting the state, you will have to consume your cannabis while in Illinois and safely dispose of whatever you do not consume before heading to the airport, bus or train station, or driving home.
The cultivation of cannabis plants for personal use is prohibited. However, medical patients will be permitted to grow up to 5 cannabis plants at home.
Qualifying Debilitating Medical Conditions
Illinois’ Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program Act began as a pilot program in 2014. It became a permanent program, losing the “pilot’ designation in August 2019. Patients with the 1 or more of the following debilitating medical conditions may be eligible to participate in the program:
- Agitation of Alzheimer’s disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Anorexia nervosa
- Arnold-Chiari malformation
- Cachexia/wasting syndrome
- Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
- Chronic pain
- Crohn’s disease
- CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome Type II)
- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
- Fibrous Dysplasia
- Hepatitis C
- Interstitial cystitis
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Myasthenia Gravis
- Nail-patella syndrome
- Neuro-Bechet’s autoimmune disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)
- Post-Concussion Syndrome
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
- Residual limb pain
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Seizures (including that characteristic of Epilepsy)
- Severe fibromyalgia
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Spinal cord disease (including but not limited to arachnoiditis)
- Spinal cord injury is damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
- Spinocerebellar ataxia
- Superior canal dehiscence syndrome
- Tarlov cysts
- Tourette syndrome
- Traumatic brain injury
- Ulcerative colitis
Hard copy petitions to add debilitating medical conditions may be submitted by mail to: Illinois Department of Public Health Division of Medical Cannabis 535 W. Jefferson St. Springfield, IL 62761-0001 The petitions will be reviewed annually during the month of January.
Applying for a Medical Marijuana Card in Illinois
In order to apply for a patient registry identification card in Illinois, adult patients must:
- be an Illinois resident
- have a qualifying debilitating medical condition
- have a signed physician certification
- Consent to obtain a fingerprint background check and submit photo ID
Bus drivers, truck drivers, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, correctional probation officers, and firefighters are ineligible. The application can be submitted online. Before starting the application, the patient must have a printed copy of the physician’s certification that they can scan and upload along with their application.\ Minor qualifying patients are eligible to participate in the program if they comply with the same requirements for adult patients with these three exceptions:
- They must obtain a reviewing physician’s certification in addition to their first physician’s certification
- They do not need to obtain a fingerprint background check or submit photo ID
- Their legal guardians must consent to their participation in the program.
According to Ashley’s Law, students who are registered qualifying patients under Illinois Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act may use oils, ointments, foods, and other cannabis-infused products while in school. However, they may not smoke or vape any cannabis. There are multiple application fee options:
- $100 for a 1-year registry card
- $200 for a 2-year registry card
- $250 for a 3-year registry card
Social Security Disability Income and/or Supplemental Security Income recipients and veterans may be eligible for the following reduced application fees:
- $50 for a 1-year registry card
- $100 for a 2-year registry card
- $125 for a 3-year registry card
The Alternative to Opioids Act of 2018
This Opioid Alternative Pilot Program in Illinois allows patients who can be prescribed opioids access to medical marijuana instead. These patients can purchase up to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana every 14 days. The law is designed to provide patients with relief without exposing them to highly addictive opioids. Patients must obtain a physician certification to participate. The certification is valid for 90 days. Patients can renew their physician certifications for a $10 fee once they reach the 90-day expiration.