Recreational Use of Cannabis: What’s Legal and What’s Illegal

December 1, 2020

By Geneva Brown, CARPLS Staff Attorney

On January 1, 2020, Illinois legalized the use of cannabis for personal, recreational consumption. Yes, you can now purchase cannabis legally for your personal use. But buyer beware. Laws are still in place that tell you when, where, how, how much, and with who you can consume cannabis legally. To enjoy the newfound freedom of recreational cannabis use, let us explore how to legally consume cannabis under the Cannabis Act.

Who can consume cannabis?

Anyone, if you are of age. You must be at least 21 years old. You can use cannabis under the age of 21 if you have a medical reason or if you are enrolled in the Community College Cannabis Vocational Pilot Program.

How much can I purchase?

Well, that depends on how you ingest or use cannabis. If you smoke, you can purchase up to 30 grams of the cannabis flower. If you use cannabis in foods, you can purchase up to 500 milligrams in an infused product. If you put cannabis in products like lotions or creams, you can have up to 5 grams of concentrated cannabis.

Can I grow cannabis?

Only qualifying medical patients with a medical cannabis card can grow cannabis. With medical clearance, you can have up to 30 grams or 5 cannabis plants in your residence.

Can I purchase if I am not an Illinois resident?

If you are a visitor to Illinois, you are limited to purchasing 15 grams of the cannabis flower. You can purchase up to 250 milligrams in an infused product. You can have up to 2.5 grams of concentrated cannabis. Beware of carrying purchased cannabis across state lines. Most states that border Illinois (Indiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin, for example) have not legalized cannabis use.

Where can I purchase?

Only at a licensed dispensary. This is especially important. All other sales that are not from a licensed dispensary are illegal.

How can I travel with the cannabis I purchase?

It is best to drive (and the law requires) that you drive with your cannabis packaged, with proof of purchase, and out of reach of anyone in the car. Otherwise, you risked being charged with a felony drug offense.

Where can I use the cannabis I purchase?

You can use cannabis in your home or the home of others. You can NOT use cannabis in public. In fact:

  • You cannot use cannabis while driving.
  • You cannot use or possess cannabis on school grounds.
  • You cannot use or possess cannabis in a school bus.
  • You cannot use cannabis in jail or prison.
  • You cannot use cannabis in a licensed childcare facility.
  • You cannot use cannabis around persons under 21 years old (unless a person has permission for medical or vocational reasons).
  • You cannot fly with cannabis – no matter what the amount. Flying a commercial airline makes any offense a federal case. The federal government controls the airways, and the federal government still finds cannabis an illegal drug. Some airports have “amnesty boxes” (like O’Hare) where you can deposit your cannabis before you are inspected by TSA and proceed to your gate.
  • A word about usage of cannabis on federal property or in federally subsidized housing: You can NOT use cannabis on federal property. The federal government finds the use of cannabis to still be illegal even if Illinois says it is now legal. You face possible eviction or federal charges if you are found using cannabis on federal property.

What happens if I violate the Cannabis Act?

It depends on what offense you committed.

  • If you drive while using cannabis, you face up to a year in jail or 2 years of probation and/or a fine up to $2500.
  • If you are driving with loose or illegal amounts of cannabis in your car, you can be charged with manufacturing and/or delivery of cannabis. You risk a felony charge if you possess cannabis amounts above the legally allowed amount for personal consumption or drive with “loose” or unpackaged cannabis that is easily accessible in a car.
  • If you are under 21 and attempt to purchase cannabis, you face a civil fine up to $200.
  • If you are found to have more than the legal limit of cannabis, you face a range of charges. If you possess more than 10 grams above the legal limit, the punishment is a minimum fine of $100. At worse, if you possess 5000 grams above the legal limit, you face a possible 4 – 15 years imprisonment.
  • A parent allowing their child to use cannabis without medical clearance faces up to a year in jail or 2 years of probation and/or a fine up to $2500.

The growing acceptance of cannabis is an exciting event. Illinois recognized the overly aggressive enforcement of cannabis offenses in particular neighborhoods and with people of color. The Cannabis Act addresses those wrongs. Thousands who have cannabis convictions are having their records expunged. You can now use cannabis safely and legally. Just remember, the best options are buying the legal limit from a licensed dispensary; while being over the age of 21; and consuming in your own home and not while driving.

If you have a cannabis conviction in the State of Illinois and want to find out your path to expungement, please visit New Leaf Illinois. A legal professional will determine your options and let you know how the New Leaf network can help.

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