New Year's Day will ring in a new era of cannabis in Illinois, making it the eleventh state to allow adult-use cannabis sales. Starting January 1, 2020, adult-use marijuana products will be legal to purchase.
Here's your consumer guide to the when, where, and how much for cannabis in Illinois.
Know the limits
Starting New Year's Day, Illinois residents over 21 with a valid ID are allowed to purchase and possess up to 30 grams (a little more than an ounce) of cannabis flower, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate and 500 milligrams of THC contained in cannabis-infused products. Those possession limits are cumulative.
Visitors from out of state are limited to half those amounts as long as they still show ID.
Patients using medical cannabis in Illinois can store even more cannabis at home (2.5 ounces, or 70.9 grams), including up to five cannabis plants for cultivation, as long as it is secured under certain conditions. The rules for qualifying for medical cannabis in Illinois remain unchanged.
Adult-use sales will also begin first thing in the near year. As of the publishing of this article, of the 55 medical cannabis dispensaries in the state, 35 got the OK to sell recreationally. Starting Jan. 1, these 10 are in Chicago:
- Norwood Park: Zen Leaf, 6428 N. Milwaukee Ave.
- Uptown: Dispensary 33, 5001 N. Clark St.
- Portage Park: Columbia Care, 4758 N. Milwaukee Ave.
- Wrigleyville: Medmar Lakeview, 3812 N. Clark St.
- Logan Square: MOCA, 2847 W. Fullerton Ave.
- West Town: NuMed Chicago, 1308 W. North Ave.
- Near West Side: The Herbal Care Center, 1301 S. Western Ave.
- Brighton Park: Maribis of Chicago, 4570 S. Archer Ave.
- Garfield Ridge: Midway Dispensary, 5648 S. Archer Ave.
- South Chicago: Mission Illinois, 8554 S. Commercial Ave.
Dispensaries can be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., but most of the Chicago dispensaries will run their normal business hours on January 1.
Supplies will be limited at most dispensaries due to a huge anticipated demand. Some will cap sales at amounts under the legal limit, or offer only vape cartridges and edibles — at least at the outset — to reserve enough marijuana flower products for medical patients.
“Importantly, we will work to make sure that the experience for our registered medical patients does not change drastically, specifically when it comes to wait time and product selection,” said a spokesperson for Columbia Care in northwest Chicago.
Prices will vary for flowers and edibles depending on THC content, but at most locations, a one-eighth ounce of marijuana starts at around $55. Edibles between 50 and 100 milligrams of THC will typically cost between $20 and $30.
Remember to bring cash. Due to federal banking regulations, most dispensaries operate as cash-only businesses, though on-site ATMs are common.
Where to smoke
Smoking cannabis won't be permitted everywhere under the new law. All home use is permitted, as long as no one under 21 is exposed to cannabis, but it is still illegal in a “public place,” or anywhere you can be observed by others in public, like a sidewalk or public park.
According to Herald & Review reporting, Chicago has determined that backyards and balconies won't be considered public places under this law. Cannabis consumption in those outside spaces will be permitted.
The law prohibits cannabis use in any motor vehicle, but cannabis can be transported in a car as long as it's in a reasonably secured, sealed container. It will also be illegal to use or possess cannabis in certain off-limits spaces, like schools, daycares, and correctional facilities.
Chicago has eased penalties, though, for illegal possession. Currently, illegal marijuana possession carries a fine of $500, and the vehicle where it's found can be impounded. Starting in 2020, it's a $50 fine for possessing or using a legal amount of cannabis in these off-limit spaces or public places, and $100 if it's the second violation within 30 days.
A growth industry
Adult use sales will be limited to start, with just 10 dispensaries serving Chicago's more than 2 million residents over the age of 21. But the state could open as many as 75 new dispensaries by May, as well as 40 licenses for infusers and another 40 licenses for craft growers by July. A second wave will follow, with up to 110 new dispensaries opening statewide by the end of 2021.
The new law will allow for cannabis smoke shops — much like cigar bars — but in restaurants and other establishments, cannabis will be prohibited along with cigarettes. That means a public cannabis café, like the Original Cannabis Cafe which opened earlier this year in California, won't be coming to Chicago anytime soon.
But not every community is welcoming legal cannabis sales.
While cannabis possession and use will be legal statewide for adults over 21, legislatures left it up to towns to determine if they will move ahead with adult-use sales. A number of Chicago suburbs, including those in conservative DuPage County like Downers Grove and Naperville, have banned adult-use sales.
But other towns are embracing sales as a revenue generator. Crystal Lake, Schaumburg, and others will allow cannabis sales but will impose an additional 3% sales tax.
The move to decriminalize could spread beyond Illinois' borders. Officials in Lake County, Indiana, just across the state border from Chicago, are considering a measure that will let sheriffs issue a small fine for marijuana possession.
Last year, Michigan voters moved to legalize marijuana, and the first dispensaries there opened in December 2019. With two of Indiana's four neighbors offering recreational sales, it looks like the state legislature might take up decriminalization as soon as next year.
Where the green is going
Cannabis will be taxed based on THC content — 10% sales tax on marijuana plants with less than 35% THC, 20% on all infused products, and 25% on plant products with over 35% THC. Medical marijuana will still be tax-free.
Illinois officials expect legal marijuana sales could generate up to $57 million in tax revenue by the end of the first year, and more than $375 million by 2024. Much of that money has already been earmarked.
The largest share will go into the state's general revenues, but a quarter of the tax revenue will fund the state's new Restore, Reinvest and Renew grant program, which was set up to address the "economic disinvestment, violence and historical overuse of criminal justice” under cannabis prohibition.
That money will fund grants across the state for economic development, violence prevention services and other causes from applicants in designated “R3 areas” that have been historically marginalized.
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