What is cannabis/marijuana?
Cannabis is more commonly known as marijuana, weed, or pot. Growing or possessing cannabis for recreational use is illegal in Illinois. Cannabis is a flowering plant that creates a mind-altering state. This state is caused by a compound called tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC.
Cannabis as a plant can be used for different things, and most of those uses are illegal. Hemp is made from the stalks of the cannabis plant, contains very low levels of THC, and is legal. Recreational marijuana is illegal and comes from the flowering buds of the cannabis plant, which has a high level of THC. These flowers are often dried and smoked, or crushed to create a fine powder, or turned into oil.
Synthetic marijuana is also called "spice" or "K2," and it is a drug created in a lab, designed to mimic the effects of the chemicals found in cannabis. It is not derived at all from the cannabis plant, but recreational use of most forms of synthetic marijuana is also illegal. Synthetic cannabis has been sold by some gas stations and convenience stores. Despite the fact that this product is sold at a retail establishment, it may still be illegal to possess.
What forms of cannabis are illegal?
Medical marijuana is legal in Illinois, but recreational use of marijuana is not. Cannabis is illegal to grow, and it's illegal to possess the cannabis leaves and flowers for recreational use, in all forms including:
- Hashish (hasheesh, hashish, hash)
- Hash oil
- Seeds that are capable of growing another cannabis plant
- Infusions, such as brownies, tea, or lotions
- Any extraction of resin, such as the extract of pure THC
The mature stalks of the cannabis plant and products made from those stalks are called hemp. Hemp is legal. This includes hemp fiber or hemp oil.
Carrying cannabis on your person, in your car, or having it in your home is unlawful. Whether or not that possession is a criminal offense or a civil offense depends on the amount of cannabis you have in your possession.
In Illinois, the possession of more than 10 grams of cannabis is a crime and you can be arrested. If you are caught with only 10 grams or less, that is a civil offense. If the cannabis is mixed with another substance, the total amount of that substance is considered for determining the level of the violation.
Additionally, it is unlawful for any person to deliver cannabis to another person, possess cannabis with intent to deliver it or to manufacture marijuana. These charges for any amount of cannabis is a crime for which you can be arrested and subject to jail time. Intent to deliver can be inferred from various factors, even possession of a small amount of cannabis along with possession of paraphernalia. The transfer of cannabis does not have to involve getting money or other compensation in return for it to be unlawful.
Regardless of whether you are charged with a civil or criminal offense, local law enforcement is also allowed to punish you. For example, if you are caught with 5 grams of marijuana, you will be charged with a civil offense by the state and fined. If the city you are in considers possessing 30 grams or less of cannabis illegal, you are still only facing a civil offense but the city can make you pay an additional fine on top of the fine you owe the state.
The amount of fines you have to pay sometimes depends on how many times you've been caught possessing cannabis before. Some areas increase the amount you have to pay for your first, second, and third offense. Some areas adjust the amount of the fine based on how much cannabis you possessed. The more cannabis in your possession, the higher the fine. Most local fines don't go higher than $750.
The police will take any cannabis or paraphernalia they find, regardless of whether you were charged with a criminal or civil offense.
This spreadsheet includes some of the laws local areas have about possessing cannabis or paraphernalia. It doesn't include all of the local areas in Illinois, so if you have any questions regarding what kinds of fines your city or village can impose for cannabis-related crimes, you can look up those ordinances online usually on the specific area's official website.
Personal amounts of cannabis
The state of Illinois has decriminalized personal amounts of cannabis. A personal or small amount is 10 grams or less. This means that if you are caught possessing 10 grams or less of cannabis, you won't face jail time. Instead, you will have to pay a fine.
Local areas, like cities and villages, often have their laws regarding cannabis. State law trumps city law so the city can't arrest you for possessing a personal amount of cannabis. However, the city can give you an additional fine.
Cannabis paraphernalia is also illegal. Paraphernalia are tools that are used at different stages of producing and ingesting cannabis. These stages include:
Paraphernalia can include tools to prepare cannabis for sale and distribution, such as:
- Digital scales
- Zipper storage bags
Paraphernalia can include tools for ingesting cannabis, such as:
- Smoking masks
Paraphernalia can also sometimes include tools to hide the use of cannabis, such as:
- Containers that are intended to hide cannabis
- Products that are intended to help someone pass a drug test
There is a wide range of things that are considered paraphernalia and so some information is taken into account when deciding if an object is paraphernalia:
- If cannabis was present on the object
- How close the cannabis was to the object
- Whether the object is capable of actually being used to ingest cannabis
When a car is used in a cannabis-related felony, the police have the right to take it. This is called impoundment. The car will then go through forfeiture proceedings where the police will decide if they get to keep the car.
If you are only in possession of a personal amount of cannabis, the police can't take the car. However, if there are allegations of possession with intent to distribute, even a personal amount of cannabis, your car may be subject to forfeiture proceedings.
For more information, visit My car was impounded because it contained drugs in Chicago
Driving while under the influence of cannabis is unlawful. Illinois used to have a zero-tolerance policy, making it unlawful to drive a car with any amount of THC in your system. Now, you are allowed to drive with 5 nanograms or less of THC in your blood.
For more information, visit Small amounts of marijuana and driving under the influence.
If you are pulled over by a police officer and they smell cannabis coming from the car, they will have probable cause to search the car. That means the police are legally allowed look through your car. If they find any other unlawful items in the car, this evidence can be used against the person charged even if ultimately no cannabis is recovered from the vehicle.
Note: Medical marijuana is legal in Illinois under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. Currently, buying and using cannabis medically in Illinois is temporary. The program expires January 1, 2020, unless it's extended.
There are medical benefits to ingesting cannabis. Illinois allows you to buy and use cannabis or cannabis-infused products if you have certain medical conditions or if you are terminally ill. To buy and use cannabis, you need to apply for a registry identification card and pay the application fee. The card is valid for 1, 2, or 3 years. A card allows you to buy 2.5 ounces of cannabis from a dispensary every 14 days. You can also purchase cannabis-infused products such as brownies, teas, oils, or lotions.
Fees for getting a card:
- $100 for 1 year
- $200 for 2 years
- $250 for 3 years cards
You can apply for a registry card if you have any of the conditions listed on the Illinois Department of Public Health's website.
You must also:
- Be 18 years or older
- Be a resident of Illinois
- Have a signed medical certificate
- Get your fingerprints taken
- Not have a school bus permit or Commercial Driver's License
- Not be an active law enforcement officer, correctional officer, correctional probation officer, or firefighter
If you have a terminal illness with a life expectancy of 6 months, you can get a registry card that is valid for those 6 months. There are no application fees if you have a terminal illness and the process will be quicker.
You can't be discriminated against for using medical cannabis. You can't be discriminated:
- By schools
- By employers
- By landlords
- In organ donations
- For allocation of parenting responsibilities or parenting time
Getting a card costs money. You have to pay an application fee, but you also have your fingerprints taken, visit your doctor so that they can determine if you would benefit from ingesting cannabis, and get passport photos taken. If you are a veteran or receive SSI/SSDI, your fees will be reduced. Insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid don't cover medical marijuana costs.
The IDPH has up to 30 days to approve or deny your application after you've completed and submitted all the forms. You can check the status of your application by emailing DPH.MedicalCannabis@illinois.gov.
After that 3 year period, you will have to renew your application again and pay your fees again. If you got a card before the law was extended in 2016, you have the option to extend your current card for 1 or 2 years. You will need to pay an additional fee for this, but you will not need another visit to your doctor or another background check.
If you need a caretaker to buy and help you consume the cannabis, you are allowed to designate a caretaker. You will need to fill out a form and pay an additional fee. If you are a minor, you can still apply for a card, but there are different rules.
You are not allowed to get a card if you have a felony related to drug use or violence. If you received this felony conviction while you were possessing, growing, or delivering a "reasonable amount" of cannabis for medical use, you could ask the registering department to waive this conviction. If the conviction is waived, you can get the card.
Also, if the drug-related felony you committed is now no longer considered a crime, you can get a card. Illinois recently decriminalized small amounts of cannabis. If you were convicted of a felony for possessing 10 grams or less, that is no longer a felony in Illinois. You can apply for a card.
Even though the use of medical marijuana is legal in Illinois, you can't grow your cannabis for this purpose. You have to get your medical marijuana from a dispensary.
There are also some places you can't possess or use cannabis, even though you have a card. You can't use cannabis in public. You can't have cannabis in your possession:
- In a school bus
- At a grade school or high school
- In a car, unless it's sealed and out of reach of the driver
- In a correctional facility
If your employer has a drug-free policy at work, you still have to follow that policy. Ingesting cannabis can have a wide range of effects on a user and can decrease the performance of a worker's duties. An employer can have a policy at work related to cannabis, including drug testing and zero tolerance. You can still be punished for violating the policy, including failing a drug test.
Even though you have a card and can legally ingest cannabis, you can still be punished if you're caught:
- With more than the 2.5 ounces
- Driving with more than 5 nanograms of THC in your blood
If you have any questions, you can call the Division of Medical Cannabis at (855) 636-3688 or email them at DPH.MedicalCannabis@Illinois.gov.