LEARN | LAWS & REGULATION
Is weed legal in Illinois?
Yes. Both medical and recreational cannabis are legal in the Land of Lincoln.
Illinois passed its first cannabis legislation, outlawing recreational marijuana, in 1931. Cannabis use remained illegal under Illinois marijuana laws until the Cannabis Control Act of 1978 . While this Illinois marijuana bill technically legalized medical cannabis, the Department of Human Services and the Illinois State Police never crafted regulations.
Finally, in 2013, Illinois passed its first viable medical cannabis law when Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act . This bill legalized the cultivation, sale, and use of medical marijuana in the state and charged the departments of Public Health (DPH), Agriculture, and Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) with composing the rules necessary to implement the pilot program.
Dispensaries began their first sales to qualified patients in November 2015. Legislative changes over the years opened up the program to many more patients, added conditions, allowed people with opioid prescriptions to qualify for medical cannabis use, and made the medical cannabis pilot program permanent.
In 2016, Illinois decriminalized marijuana possession , meaning that those caught with 10 grams or less would face a $100 to $200 fine instead of jail time.
The Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act became the law of the land when Governor Pritzker signed the legislation on June 25, 2019. This act legalized cannabis for adult use, making the state the 11th in the nation to do so. With Senate floor amendment 2 , Illinois became the first state in history to legalize cannabis usage via legislation rather than public referendum. The landmark legalization also triggered the expungement of hundreds of thousands of records of cannabis possession under 30 grams prior to legalization. The legislation formally went into effect and sales began on January 1, 2020.
The Illinois Department of Public Health regulates the medical marijuana program on behalf of patients, caregivers, and physicians. The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is responsible for regulating dispensing centers . The Illinois Department of Agriculture licenses cultivation centers throughout the state.
Where is it safe to purchase weed in Illinois?
Registered patients and caregivers may legally purchase medical cannabis at a dispensary. Medical patients are responsible for a 1% pharmaceutical tax, while cultivators and dispensaries must pay a 7% of the sales price per ounce. Patients and caregivers may purchase up to 2.5 ounces (71 grams) of usable cannabis per 14-day period.
Qualifying patients may purchase medical cannabis only from their chosen dispensary, as indicated in their initial registry application form. A patient can change their selected dispensary at any time free of charge by completing the Medical Cannabis Selection Form .
Adults over the age of 18 can purchase cannabis for recreational use at any one of Illinois’ many adult-use dispensaries. Like their medical counterparts, adult-use growers pay a 7% tax but only on their first sale. Dispensaries, however, pay 10% tax on products with less than 35% THC, 25% on products with more than 35% THC, and 20% on any infused products.
While medical dispensaries are exempt from any local taxes, adult-use shops pay the state’s 6.25% tax as well as any local taxes, though cities can’t tax more than 3% and counties are limited to 3.75%. Shoppers can expect those taxes to be built into the price of weed.
Where is it safe to consume cannabis?
Consuming cannabis in any public place or where it would reasonably endanger the health or well-being of another person is prohibited. Consumption on school grounds is prohibited, with the exception of minors who may bring their medicine to school and consume under the supervision of a parent, guardian, caregiver, or school nurse. Minors are not allowed to smoke or vape cannabis.
Consuming marijuana before operating any vehicle or before undertaking tasks that would constitute negligence or professional malpractice will subject violators to similar penalties as alcohol-related driving-under-the-influence (DUI) offenses.
Patients may possess up to 2.5 ounces (71 grams) of cannabis or cannabis products during any 14-day period. Patients can ask their doctor for a recommendation to possess more cannabis if needed. Medical marijuana cardholders can transport cannabis inside secure, sealed containers that are inaccessible while driving. Neither drivers nor passengers may consume cannabis inside a vehicle.
Schools, employers, and landlords cannot refuse to enroll, employ, or lease an apartment to a medical marijuana consumer solely based on their status as a patient or caregiver.
Patients may not give away medical cannabis. Caregivers can purchase or possess cannabis medicine on behalf of their designated patient only. Adults can give away cannabis to anyone over the age of 21 provided no payment changes hands.
The possession limits for Illinois residents over the age of 21 are:
- 30 grams of raw cannabis flower
- No more than 500 milligrams of THC in cannabis-infused products
- 5 grams of cannabis concentrates
Out-of-state visitors over the age of 21 may possess:
- 15 grams of flower
- No more than 250 milligrams of THC in cannabis-infused products
- 2.5 grams of cannabis concentrates
Is home cultivation allowed in Illinois?
Only registered patients and caregivers may cultivate cannabis.
Regulations require that medicinal gardens:
- Be in an enclosed, locked space
- Contain no more than five plants more than 5 inches tall
- Are not visible by the public
- Occur only on residential property owned by the cultivator or with the consent of the owner
Getting your Illinois medical marijuana card
The Illinois Department of Public Health oversees the state’s Medical Cannabis Patient Registry Program . Prospective patients can apply online or print an application and mail it. Patients must be at least 18 years old and not hold a school bus driver permit or commercial driver’s license, or be an active duty law enforcement officer, correctional officer, probation officer, or firefighter.
The most current list of qualifying conditions is available on the Illinois Department of Health website .
Patients must be residents of Illinois and remain so during their participation in the medical cannabis program. Patients must have one of the qualifying conditions and obtain a written certification from a recommending physician licensed to practice medicine in Illinois. This form is provided to patients as a part of their complete application for a medical cannabis registry card.
Veterans receiving care from the Veterans Affairs (VA) office don’t need to submit a physician’s certification. Instead, they must provide medical records from the VA facility documenting the last 12 months of treatment. These records can be requested electronically or by mail and must be submitted with the patient’s medical marijuana application form.
Minor medical marijuana patients must first obtain a physician’s certification that confirms the patient has a qualifying medical condition. A reviewing physician must then review the patients’ medical history and confirm the patient was correctly diagnosed. Both forms must be submitted with a minor’s complete medical cannabis registry application.
Minors may designate one caregiver at no charge on their own application and may add a second and third one by submitting a caregiver application and a $75 fee per caregiver. Minors may only use cannabis-infused products.
- Obtain a written certification from a doctor to confirm the diagnosis of a qualifying condition.
- Complete and sign the state’s medical cannabis application form. This form requires prospective patients to choose the dispensary they will visit and designate a caregiver, as needed. Patients can change their chosen dispensary at a later date.
- Pay an application fee. Patients can choose a one-, two-, or three-year card and pay accordingly. Rates are reduced for veterans and patients with disabilities.
- Include a passport-size photo taken in front of a plain, white background.
- Prove Illinois residency with two separate documents. Copies of utility bills, bank statements, state IDs, driver’s licenses, and voter ID cards are acceptable forms of proof.
- Prove age and identity with a copy of a valid government-issued photo ID.
- Include a caregiver application, the accompanying fee, and other forms if a patient requires a caregiver.
- If patients are being treated at a VA facility, they can send 12 months of medical records from the VA in the place of a physician’s written certification.
Terminally ill patients diagnosed with six months or less to live can register for free.
Patients with a prescription for opioids can apply for the medical marijuana program online with a doctor’s written certification. These patients will receive a temporary receipt, which they can present to a dispensary to buy medical cannabis while their applications are in process.
A registered caregiver is someone licensed to assist a registered patient with the purchase and use of medical cannabis. They must be at least 21 years old and residents of Illinois who agree, in writing, to assist the patient. The state conducts a background check. Registered caregivers may serve only one patient at a time, and they cannot receive compensation for their services.
Caregiver registry process
- Submit a caregiver application either with the designated patient’s application submission or independently at a later date.
- Pay an application fee. Caregivers can choose a one-, two-, or three-year card and pay accordingly.
- Include a passport-size photo taken in front of a plain white background.
- Prove Illinois residency with two separate documents.
- Prove age and identity with a copy of a valid government-issued photo ID.
Who can provide a medical cannabis recommendation?
Physicians are responsible for providing written certifications that confirm that a patient has a qualifying debilitating condition.
To provide a written certification, physicians must complete a full, in-person assessment of the patient’s medical history and qualifying condition in the course of a bona fide physician-patient relationship. The written certification must also state that the patient is in the physician’s continuing care for the treatment of the qualifying debilitating condition.
Does Illinois allow reciprocity?
No, only registered residents of Illinois can purchase medical marijuana products from a dispensary. However, any adult over the age of 21 can purchase cannabis at a dispensary and possess up to:
- 15 grams of cannabis flower.
- 2.5 grams of cannabis concentrate.
- 250 milligrams of THC in cannabis-infused products.
All cannabis and cannabis-infused products must be tested in a state-approved lab. Cannabis and cannabis products must be tested for cannabinoid profiles, pesticides, microbiological contaminants, mycotoxins, and residual solvents.
This page was last updated September 29, 2020.
View the marijuana laws & regulations for Illinois.
Pot is legal in Illinois, but don’t pack it for your next airplane ride
Chicago police encourage fliers with weed to deposit it in marijuana amnesty boxes located at security checkpoints in Midway and O’Hare international airports. Courtesy of the Chicago Police Department
A passenger at O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 3 undergoes screening Thursday. Although marijuana is legal in Illinois, cannabis is prohibited under federal law and, if detected, it could result in missing your flight or facing a federal charge. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer
Passengers at O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 3 prepare for screening Thursday. Although marijuana is legal in Illinois, cannabis remains illegal under federal law. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer
Passengers at O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 3 prepare for screening Thursday. Although marijuana is legal in Illinois, cannabis is prohibited under U.S. law and, if detected during screening, it could result in missing your flight or potentially facing a federal charge. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer
Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Illinois, residents can enjoy the previously forbidden fruit from Cook to Massac counties.
But drive into Kenosha County, Wisconsin, with your legally purchased weed and you’ll be breaking federal and state laws.
As for flying with cannabis products? Don’t do it, experts advise, unless you enjoy delays at U.S. Transportation Security Administration checkpoints that could mean missing a flight.
“There is a misconception that if you can buy the stuff legally — you can take it wherever you go,” DePaul University transportation professor Joseph Schwieterman said. “That will create some unpleasant surprises, particularly at our airports.”
The year 2020 brings a mishmash of federal, state and local laws regarding cannabis that could make marijuana consumers want to tuck a lawyer into their carry-ons.
“It’s tricky and we need to see how it plays out,” said attorney Kelvin McCabe, a National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Illinois board member.
Here are a few things to know about traveling with recreational marijuana:
• The new law effective Jan. 1 prohibits transporting cannabis or cannabis products outside the state of Illinois.
• It is illegal under federal law to cross the border or arrive at a U.S. port of entry with marijuana in your possession.
• Federally, “marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance,” meaning it’s illegal, a U.S. Department of Justice official said.
But what about domestic flights to another marijuana-friendly state like California or flying intrastate?
That’s a bad plan, experts said, stressing Illinois law bans taking marijuana outside the Prairie State, and that everyone flying on a commercial flight must be checked by federal TSA officers.
TSA screenings are focused on security and detecting potential threats to aircraft and passengers, spokeswoman Sari Koshetz said. “Accordingly, our security officers don’t search for marijuana.”
But possession is illegal under federal law and if TSA workers find your weed, “our officers will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer, who then follow their own procedures,” Koshetz noted.
The Chicago Police Department is encouraging travelers not to bring cannabis or cannabis products through Midway or O’Hare international airports, “as it still remains illegal federally,” Public Relations Coordinator Maggie Huynh said.
Police recommend fliers with marijuana jettison it in cannabis amnesty boxes, located inside the secure area at the end of every TSA checkpoint.
Huynh did note that “our officers are only contacted by TSA when it appears to be a significant amount of cannabis over the legal limit.”
That could mean “the biggest risk is not the arrest, but missing your flight,” said McCabe, assistant public defender in Rock Island County.
Although possession by someone 21 or older is not a crime, and Chicago police can’t make arrests for federal offenses, McCabe advises users not to be guinea pigs during the transition period.
In California, where marijuana has been legal since 2018, Los Angeles Airport Police contacted by TSA officers typically won’t arrest passengers with weed unless it exceeds the limit, an official said. However, airport police have detained fliers at the request of the TSA until federal agents arrive.
Other significant players to be aware of are carriers such as United and American Airlines that forbid marijuana on board.
“Federally, with some few exceptions, marijuana is still illegal,” United spokesman Charles Hobart said. “We follow federal law and do not permit carriage or consumption on our aircraft.”
If you find the rules confusing, DePaul’s Schwieterman empathizes. “Our state deserves a poor grade for its public education efforts surrounding legalization. There has been plenty of hype, but few efforts to explain the legal boundaries.
“Let’s just hope people don’t try to fly with the product to countries where there is zero tolerance. Saying ‘it was an accident,’ won’t cut it.”
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You should know
Curious about what happens to the marijuana folks dump in the amnesty bins?
“The boxes are regularly checked,” Huynh said, though Chicago police could not specify how often and when. “Any time the box is cleared and there are items in the box, officers will create a report, inventory the cannabis or cannabis products and then they will be disposed of similar to how narcotics are disposed of.”
Recreational marijuana may be legal in Illinois, but driving with it to Wisconsin — or flying with it — is not. Here’s what you need to know to stay within the law.