Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Cannabis Legalization In Illinois

Charli Renken Charli Renken

Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Cannabis Legalization In Illinois

Recreational cannabis will be legal in Illinois starting Jan 1, 2020.

Earlier this year, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed HB1438 into law, which will make recreational cannabis legal in Illinois. On Jan 1, 2020, Illinois will become the 11th state to make the use and sale of the substance legal for adults 21+. But what does that mean and how will it affect Chicagoans? Here’s everything you need to know.

Buying recreational cannabis

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It’s important to know a few things about purchasing cannabis products in Chicago before you race out to the nearest dispensary in Jan. Firstly, you must be 21 or older with a valid ID. Secondly, you cannot purchase nor possess more than 30 grams (about an ounce) at a time. That’s for cannabis flower, however. If you want to buy concentrate, you can only possess 5 grams, and for THC-infused products, you can only have 500 milligrams. If you’re not a resident of Illinois, you’ll only be able to buy half of that. If you’re from a neighboring state, keep that in mind before you make the trek across state lines.

It’s also possible that you won’t be able to buy cannabis with a credit card, as the drug is still illegal federally and most credit card companies don’t work with dispensaries. Bring cash if you can, although it’s likely dispensaries will have ATMs available for this exact reason.

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Another thing to keep in mind is that because growing recreational cannabis isn’t legal yet, there are likely to be shortages at existing medical dispensaries. “Each state that has implemented an adult-use cannabis program has had issues related to supply shortages,” a cannabis lawmaker group including Sen. Heather Steans, Sen. Laura Fine, State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, and other Illinois Reps wrote in a letter. Rest assured for those of you with medical cards, dispensaries are required to keep a certain amount of product on reserve specifically for patients.

Once you are able to purchase cannabis for recreational use, you will need to be careful where you smoke it. You cannot legally smoke marijuana in public and depending on local jurisdiction, you might not even be able to smoke inside the dispensary that sold it to you. Make sure you check the laws in your area before lighting up outside of private residences.

Driving while high

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It is illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence of any mind-altering substance, including cannabis. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean Chicagoans won’t drive after getting high. In fact, a lot of people think driving high is no big deal. A 2018 survey completed by the Department of Transportation in Denver, CO (one of the nation’s first to legalize weed), found that 70% of cannabis consumers said they’ve driven high within the last year. Furthermore, the Denver Post reported an increase in fatal car crashes related to cannabis use between 2013 and 2016.

Please do not drive while under the influence of cannabis or any other mind-altering substance. It is dangerous for you and those around you.


Ah, yes. Taxes. Hold tight, we’ll get through this quickly. Taxes on the drug may vary from city to city, as municipalities can collect up to 3% in additional taxes, but generally, cannabis products will be taxed the following way:

  • Cannabis-infused products: 20% tax
  • Products with a THC* content of less than 35%: 25% tax
  • Products with a THC content of more than 35%: 10% tax

*This is the compound that gets you high.

Revenue from the sale and tax of cannabis will fund the following areas in the 2020 fiscal year, according to the Cannabis Taxes & Revenue Distribution document from Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois:

  • Local Government Distributive Fund (to be used for crime prevention, law enforcement training, etc. relating to illegal cannabis sale): 8%
  • Recover, Reinvest, Renew Program: 25%
  • Mental health and substance abuse recovery: 20%
  • Unpaid bills: 10%
  • General Revenue Fund: 35%
  • Drug Treatment Fund (public education campaign): 2%

You can read more about taxes and federal funding related to Illinois cannabis legalization here.

Selling Cannabis

You must have a state-issued license to grow, sell, infuse products with, transport, or cultivate any cannabis, medical or recreational. Existing medical dispensaries will continue to sell under their current license until a new license is approved and will continue to be taxed the %1 food and drug rate.

Growing Cannabis

You can only grow cannabis in your home if you’re a state-registered medical marijuana patient, and even then you can only grow five plants per household. If you thought you could start your own legal growing operation, think again. All cannabis sold in the state must be grown in one of IL state-licensed cultivation centers.

Criminal Cases and Cannabis Equity

Illinois will be implementing a social equity program as part of legalizing recreational cannabis. The ACLU reported that while white and black people use cannabis equally, black people are far more likely to be arrested and their communities negatively impacted. These social equity programs aim to benefit those who directly and disproportionately experienced violence, poverty, and criminal charges related to the war on cannabis.

Firstly, those who have been convicted of possession of under 30 grams before legalization will (in most cases) be pardoned and their records expunged automatically. People who were convicted with possession of 30-500 grams will also be able to petition for expungement, but it won’t be automatic. It’s estimated that around 770,000 cannabis-related records will be eligible for expungement.

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Secondly, those who were negatively impacted and wish to work in the cannabis industry are eligible for assistance in starting their business. These “social equity applicants” qualify for the following assistance, according to the HB 1438 summary by Marijuana Policy Project:

  • Additional points in the scoring system on business license applications.
  • Financial resources for start-ups to offset the cost of licensing fees and low-interest loans.
  • Licenses for local colleges to train for jobs in the cannabis industry.

Lastly, The Restore, Reinvest, Renew Program (3R) will fund community programs to address and support areas impacted by the war on cannabis. These programs will be used to address “economic development, violence prevention services, re-entry services, youth development, and civil legal aid,” according to the Illinois Justice Project.

That’s roughly everything you need to know about cannabis legalization in Illinois. Have more questions? You can read the full text of HB1438 here.


Feature image: Shutterstock.

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