Medical cannabis was legalized in Illinois several years ago, with recreational cannabis use set to be legalised in 2020. The state already boasts one of the country’s most robust and profitable legal pot markets.
Illinois is a state that’s proud to lead by example with its forward-thinking pot policy. To date, more than 73,000 patients have joined the state’s medical cannabis program, contributing to total retail cannabis sales of more than $325 million. Having formally authorized the legalization of recreational cannabis as of January 2020, the state’s commercial cannabis market is pegged for an incredibly bright and lucrative future.
The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act was officially passed by the Illinois General Assembly back in 2013. For the first time, qualifying patients with life-affecting medical conditions would be able to access medical cannabis legally, as of January 1, 2014. A list of more than 30 medical conditions was initially drawn up, which is subject to regular reviews and provides physicians with a degree of flexibility.
It is estimated that since the enactment of the new medical cannabis policy, more than 73,000 patients have successfully accessed medical marijuana. Illinois has also become renowned for its efforts to curb the excessive and/or unnecessary use of opiates through the provision of prescription cannabis.
How About Recreational Cannabis in Illinois?
The path to recreational cannabis legalization in Illinois began with the decriminalization of small quantities of pot back in 2016. After which, possession of less than 10g of cannabis became punishable by a maximum of $100 to $200 fine. The new legislation also outlined new rules for cannabis-related DUI offenses, set at 5 nanograms/ml of THC in the blood.
Recreational cannabis legalization was initially proposed in 2017, at which time lawmakers suggested allowing residents to possess up to 28 grams of cannabis and to grow five plants on their properties. It was estimated that the new legislation would earn the state up to $700 million-per-year in legal cannabis sales. It became near-universally accepted that the proposed bill would pass in 2019, which it did. With the legal cannabis industry in Illinois set to hit its stride, new estimates suggest average annual retail sales of more than $1.6 billion per year.
Where and When Can I Buy Cannabis in Illinois?
The first legal sales of recreational cannabis in Illinois are set to take place on January 1, 2020. At which point, only the state’s existing medical cannabis dispensaries will be allowed to sell recreational cannabis to customers. Towards the summer, it is expected that several dozen new licenses will be issued to recreational cannabis businesses, which will summarily begin their own retail sales.
By 2022, it is estimated that Illinois will be home to a minimum of 300 licensed recreational cannabis stores. However, this is subject to individual towns, cities, and jurisdictions allowing recreational cannabis to be sold. The state has provided allowances in its pot policy for the various jurisdictions around Illinois to draw up and implement their own takes on recreational pot policy.
Who Can Legally Buy Pot in Illinois?
Anyone over the age of 21 with a valid form of ID will be able to buy recreational cannabis in Illinois. A recognized form of government-issued ID must be presented at the point of purchase, which will always be heavily scrutinized. However, it is not necessary to be an Illinois resident to purchase cannabis, although different rules will apply to visitors from other states and countries.
How Much Cannabis Will I Be Able to Buy in Illinois?
When recreational cannabis sales begin in Illinois, each customer will be able to buy and carry a maximum of 30g of cannabis flower on their person at any one time. Cannabis concentrates will be limited to no more than 5g, while sales of edibles and tinctures will be limited to 500mg of THC.
Interestingly, these rules only apply to those who are able to verify their Illinois residency at the time of purchase. For visitors from outside the state, these legal purchase and possession limitations will be halved, while it remains illegal for none US citizens to purchase recreational pot.
Where Will I be Able to Consume Cannabis Legally in Illinois?
Cannabis consumption policy in Illinois will be very similar to that of other states that have so far legalized cannabis. Specifically, cannabis consumption will only be permitted away from public places. All streets, parks and outdoor spaces, in general, are excluded – cannabis must not be consumed in any form in any of these places.
It will also be illegal to consume cannabis of any kind in any motor vehicle – even if it is stationary at the time. Recreational cannabis use will be prohibited in proximity to individuals under the age of 21, or close to any school grounds or similar institutions. All landlords and property owners in general in Illinois will have the legal right to prohibit the use of cannabis on their premises.
Hence, finding a suitable place to legally consume cannabis in Illinois may prove considerably more difficult than buying it in the first place.
Can I Grow My Own Marijuana in Illinois?
As a more economical and rewarding alternative to purchase, Illinois residents are legally permitted to grow their own medical cannabis – up to five plants at a time. However, Illinois is one of few pro-pot states that is yet to outline any cultivation permissions for non-medical users. For the time being at least, it will remain illegal to cultivate cannabis at home. Those caught growing cannabis illegally face a fine of up to $200 for growing five plants or less.
When the new pot policy kicks in as of January 2020, only the current 20 licensed cannabis cultivators in Illinois will be permitted to grow cannabis for recreational purposes. However, a new wave of ‘craft’ cultivation licenses will be open for application in 2020, though strictly for business/commercial purposes only.
What’s the Story with Cannabis Taxation in Illinois?
Unsurprisingly, it’s expected that all forms of cannabis taxation will be passed onto the customer in the form of elevated prices. All sales of cannabis flowers with a THC content of less than 35% will be subject to a 10% sales tax. For cannabis concentrates, this increases to 25%, while edibles and tinctures are set to be taxed at 20%. Local sales taxes may also be applied in individual jurisdiction by the relevant local authorities.
In addition, all cultivators and dispensaries will be subject to a new 7% gross cannabis sales receipts tax. Again, a levy that’s likely to result in higher cannabis prices for the end customer.
How Will Illinois Handle Cannabis Criminal Records?
There’s much debate as to what should happen with those who have a previous cannabis-related conviction. According to the new Illinois cannabis policy, anyone convicted of cannabis possession in the past with less than 30g on their person at the time will be liable for a full pardon. However, this will be rendered null and void if the cannabis conviction occurred in conjunction with a violent crime or a more serious offense.
What Happens to Criminal Records Related to Marijuana?
People convicted for possession of under 30 grams of marijuana prior to legalization would have their records referred to the state’s Prisoner Review Board and then to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for a pardon – as long as those convictions were not associated with a violent crime. If the governor grants the pardon, the Illinois Attorney General would then seek expungement.
Anyone previously convicted of carrying more than 30g of cannabis (though less than 500g) will have the opportunity to plead their case to the state department. Pardons will be considered on a case by case basis on merit.
What Will the New DUI Rules Be in Illinois?
Illinois will continue to punish those who pose a threat to road safety by driving under the influence of cannabis. Anyone found to have a THC blood concentration of five nanograms or more per milliliter will be found guilty of DUI and punished accordingly. Penalties will be determined by the nature and the severity of the case – anything from driving license suspension to imprisonment.
Will Recreational Cannabis LegaliZation Affect Medical Pot Policy?
Unlikely, though it’s possible new policy may be introduced to allow qualifying patients to access cannabis at a lower price. A policy that’s been brought into effect in a number of states, though taken advantage of by next to no medical cannabis dispensaries.
Medical cannabis stores will continue to play a vital role, as it is illegal for a recreational cannabis store to offer any kind of medical advice. Those found guilty of doing so face having their license revoked indefinitely. If anything, it’s possible that the new cannabis legislation and taxation framework could see retail cannabis prices increase somewhat state-wide.