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. See this article for details on medical marijuana use.
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.
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.
Having paraphernalia, or tools, to use cannabis is also a crime. However, if you are found with 10 grams or less of cannabis the possession of paraphernalia will be treated as a civil offense. Like the possession of small amounts of cannabis, you will only be required to pay a fine ranging from $100 to $200 and will not be at risk to face jail time. Paraphernalia includes 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.
Updated: May 2018