Cannabis in Illinois: What to Know Now That Weed is Legal

Where can I smoke it? Where can I buy it? How much is allowed? Can I have it in my car? Will I still be drug tested at work? Consider this your Cannabis in Illinois 101.

Recreational cannabis is now legal in Illinois, and people are literally lining up to get a piece of the state’s pot pie. 

That presents plenty of questions: Illinois residents want to know where to buy cannabis, how much and where they can consume it. Non-residents want to know if they can sample it too. Entrepreneurs want to know how to open a cannabis dispensary. 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Things like law enforcement, workplace laws and social equity all pose additional inquiries. 

Just 15 days to go before Illinois legalizes recreational marijuana, though Chicago is still debating who gets a share of the pie, no matter what happens, legal pot is going to mean big changes across the state. NBC 5's Phil Rogers reports.

Do you have questions about cannabis in Illinois? NBC 5 Investigates spent the past four months diving into the politicsprojected revenuehealth risks and community impact of the state milestone to give you answers. Consider this your Cannabis in Illinois 101.

When does recreational cannabis become legal in Illinois?

Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, adults over the age of 21 will be able to legally purchase cannabis from licensed dispensaries. Sales start at 6 a.m. in some locations.

What identification do I need to buy cannabis in Illinois after Jan. 1?

Unlike the medical marijuana program, just a driver’s license will do, but it has to be unaltered, and if the dispensary doesn't like it, they can turn it down.

How much cannabis can I have?

Illinois residents can have:

• 30 grams of cannabis flower (the leafy stuff)

• 5 grams of cannabis concentrate

• 500 milligrams of THC-infused products (edibles). A container of gummies, for example, contains 10 gummies at 10 mg each. So am entire container is 100 mg. The law allows you to purchase 5 of them. 

Non-Illinois residents can possess half of these amounts.

Where can I buy cannabis in Illinois?

Only at state licensed dispensaries. Initially, these will be companions to the existing medical marijuana facilities. By May 1, 2020, the state will award licenses for up to 75 new dispensaries. By December 21, 2021, the state will award licenses for 110 more.

For a list of locations, click here

Where can I use cannabis in Illinois?

Indoors. You can partake in the privacy of your own home, for example. But you still can’t use it on the street, on the El or in a public place. If you do, you can be ticketed for public consumption. And you can be arrested if you have over the legal limit. It doesn’t matter if your marijuana is store-bought or obtained on the black market. Police tell us they’ll be looking at how much you have, not where you got it.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck said residents should not be ticketed for smoking weed in their own backyard or on their balcony in the city once recreational cannabis becomes legal in Illinois. 

Lightfoot and Beck issued a joint statement saying that while state law prohibits cannabis consumption in any "public place," which is defined as "anywhere you can be observed by others in the public," CPD believes someone using marijuana "in their own backyard or balcony poses no direct threat to public safety." 

Cannabis could mean big bucks for the state of Illinois, and many companies and individuals are looking to cash in. NBC 5’s Phil Rogers has more in our latest installment of “Cannabis in Illinois.” 

Will dispensaries store my information when I give them my ID to purchase marijuana?

Dispensaries will be required to use electronic readers to scan and verify the validity of the consumer’s government-issued identification, which must prove the consumer is at least 21 years old. State law prohibits the information on the identification from being retained, used, shared, or disclosed.

So think of showing your ID at the door like you do when entering a bar. The location takes an image of your driver’s license for their own protection, to make sure they carded you.

Showing your ID at Point of Sale is to:

1. Confirm whether you are a resident or non-resident to determine how much you can purchase. You may be asked if you want to enter their database, which is for future promotional marketing. Like when you buy something at J. Crew and they ask for your email address.

Any fine print?

Plenty. (The bill is over 600 pages long!) But here are a few loose ends:

• Landlords and employers can still say no to marijuana use.

• Dispensaries will be limited on where they advertise, can’t have giveaways or drive-thrus and, at least for now, can't deliver.

• You can’t have it on a school bus, on the grounds of a preschool or any other school, in a correctional facility, in any private residence licensed for day care, in any public place, or in proximity to anyone under 21.

• No use by law enforcement officers, corrections officers, school bus drivers or firefighters on duty.

• Dispensaries can be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

• Everything must be in childproof packaging.

In Colorado, 570 stores now sell legal pot statewide. NBC 5 Investigates’ Phil Rogers begins a deep dive into what Illinois can expect as a new recreational cannabis law goes into effect next year.

What if I want to open a cannabis dispensary?

Bring money. Your application fee will be $30,000. In addition, you’ll need to write the state a check for up to $100,000 for the cannabis business development fund. On top of that, you’ll have to pony up another $100,000 or maybe more for various social equity options, or establish an incubator program for those wanting to get into the business. And if you get another license, the fees increase.

What if I want to grow it?

Existing cultivators will have to file a $100,000 application fee. They also have to pay into the cannabis business fund, as much as $750,000. This fee is based on their sales between June 2018 and June 2019. They must also pay the same additional fees charged to dispensaries.

What if I want to grow just a little bit?

You can’t, unless you are a medical patient, and then, you can only have five plants and they must be in an enclosed space. There is a provision for craft growers. Those are smaller cultivators of 5,000 square feet. If you want to try that, you’ll be asked to file a $5,000 application fee and a $40,000 license fee.

Tonight NBC 5 Investigates’ Phil Rogers begins a deep dive into what Illinois can expect as a new recreational cannabis law goes into effect next year. 

What if I got arrested for possession years ago? I heard my record will get wiped clean.

That’s right, and this is huge. Local law enforcement and the Illinois State Police will automatically expunge arrests that didn’t lead to a conviction for amounts up to 30 grams. This will be tens of thousands of Illinois residents. Note: No automatic expungements if the cannabis offense was connected to a violent crime.

The governor will also grant pardons authorizing expungement for convictions for up to 30 grams. If you were convicted of larger amounts, up to 500 grams, you’ll have to file a motion to vacate your record.

I keep hearing about Social Equity. What’s that?

That’s the state’s promise to provide easier entry to the program for "those most adversely impacted by the enforcement of drug related laws in this state." This is a key part of the new law. Those who qualify can seek fee waivers and obtain low interest loans and grants.

Applicants under the social equity program must have at least 51% ownership by one or more individuals who:

• Have lived in a Disproportionately Impacted Area in five of the last 10 years

• Have been arrested for, or convicted of, cannabis-related offenses deemed eligible for expungement

• Have a parent, child or spouse who qualifies for expungement

Note: If there are more than 10 full-time employees, more than half must meet those qualifications.

In addition, the new law provides for the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program to address the impact of economic disinvestment, violence and "the historical overuse of the criminal justice system."

Grants for R3 areas can be used to address economic development, violence prevention, youth development, and other programs.

I hear the state is going to make a fortune on legalized recreational cannabis.

The state thinks it will. Illinois has projected 700,000 users and expects $57 million in tax revenue and licensing in the first year. Lawmakers believe that number will jump to $140.5 million in the second year, and as much as $375.5 million by Year Five.

Will the purchase, possession, and/or consumption of cannabis affect an Illinois resident’s rights to own a firearm, or his or her FOID card status? 

Illinois State Police say they "will not revoke Firearm’s Owner’s Identification Cards based solely on a person’s legal use of adult use cannabis."

"Pursuant to both State and Federal law, a person who is addicted to or a habitual user of narcotics is not permitted to possess or use firearms," the department said in a statement. "Accordingly, the ISP will revoke FOID cards where it is demonstrated that an individual is addicted to or is a habitual user of cannabis. The ISP would also revoke or deny the FOID cards of those who violate certain provisions of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.”

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