Is Recreational Weed Legal in Illinois?

Medically reviewed by Alexander Tabibi, MD
August 7, 2021
IllInois Cannabis Legal
IllInois Cannabis Legal

Recreational weed/marijuana is legal in the state of Illinois as of June of 2019.  Medical marijuana has been legal in the Land of Lincoln since 2013, and in 2016, marijuana possession was decriminalized.  But, in 2019, Illinois law finally determined that adult-use weed was completely legal.


History of Weed Laws

Illinois was historically an anti-cannabis state, having passed the first criminalization laws in 1931.  The Cannabis Control Act of 1978 was passed to further penalize marijuana possession.


Then, in 2013, Governor Quinn passed a law to legalize medical cannabis use, known as the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act.  This bill permitted cannabis to be cultivated, sold, and purchased for medical purposes, and put the departments of Public Health, Agriculture, and Financial and Professional Regulation in charge with regulating the program throughout the state.


In November of 2015, the first dispensaries opened up in the state to sell marijuana exclusively to qualified medical patients.  Over the years, more and more qualifying conditions were added to the state’s list to make cannabis accessible to more residents.


In 2016, the state voted to decriminalize possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana, which was the first step to full legalization, changing existing laws to permit those caught with this amount to pay a small fine of $100 to $200 rather than going to jail.


Finally, in June of 2019, Governor Pritzker signed the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act which officially legalized adult cannabis use.  And, as a result, with Senate floor amendment 2, IL was the first state to legalize marijuana through legislation rather than a public vote.  Consequently, all criminal records resulting from possession of 30 grams or less were expunged.  Recreational marijuana sales began in the state on January 1 of 2020.


Where Can a Person Legally Purchase Weed in Illinois?

Medical patients who are registered with the state, as well as registered caregivers, can legally purchase marijuana for medical use at a state-licensed dispensary.  Patients must pay a 1% tax on marijuana products and are permitted to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for every 14 days.  Under Illinois law, medical patients must select one dispensary from which they purchase their marijuana exclusively, as stated in their registry application.  To purchase from a different dispensary, a patient must submit an approval form to the state. 


Recreational marijuana users who are 18 or older can purchase marijuana at any state-licensed dispensary, and the state has quickly seen many dispensaries appear throughout the state. 


Recreational dispensaries must pay a 10% tax on marijuana products with less than 35% THC, 25% on products with more than 35% THC, as well as 20% on products that are infused with a cannabis extract.  Meanwhile, medical dispensaries do not have to pay taxes on products.  This means that recreational users will pay more for their products as the higher taxes are built into the pricing set forth by dispensaries.


Where Can Cannabis Legally Be Used?

The law states that it is illegal to consume cannabis in public when it may endanger the health or wellbeing of others.  It is illegal to consume cannabis on school grounds, although there is an exception that states that minors who are medically permitted to consume cannabis may do so under supervision of a parent, guardian, school nurse or caregiver.  However, it is illegal for minors to smoke or vape cannabis.


The state also recognizes DUI laws pertaining to cannabis, in which a person under the influence of marijuana can be subjected to harsh penalties if caught driving. 


Possession Laws

Medical patients can possess up to 2.5 grams of marijuana or other types of cannabis products per each 14-day period.  However, patients are allowed to ask their doctor to request approval for a higher amount if their medical circumstances require more intensive care.  It is legal for medical patients to transport marijuana in a car if it is in a sealed container.


Schools, employers, and landlords cannot refuse individuals who have a medical authorization by the state to consume cannabis.  Medical patients are prohibited from giving cannabis to other individuals, but recreational users can legally give cannabis to other individuals of at least 21 years of age as long as no form of payment is given in exchange.


Recreational residents of at least 21 years of age can legally possess up to 30 grams of flower, 5 grams of concentrate or 500 milligrams of THC in an infused product.  Meanwhile, non-residents who are visiting the state can possess up to 15 grams of flower, 2.5 grams of concentrate or 250 milligrams in an infused product.


Can Residents Grow Their Own?

Currently, only medical patients and authorized caregivers can legally grow cannabis at home.  They must register to do so.  They can grow up to 5 plants that are a maximum of 5 inches tall, and the cannabis must be kept in a locked space.  The cannabis cannot be visible to the public, and can only be grown on the grower’s own property or with permission from the owner of the property.


Medical Marijuana

This state’s Medical Cannabis Registry Program is managed by the Illinois Department of Health, where an application can be filed online or mailed in. 


Qualifying Conditions:

  • Autism
  • Agitation of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Arnold-Chiari malformation
  • Cancer
  • Cachexia/wasting syndrome
  • Causalgia
  • Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
  • Chronic pain
  • Crohn’s disease
  • CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome Type II)
  • Dystonia
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Fibrous Dysplasia
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Hydromyelia
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Lupus
  • Migraines
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Myoclonus
  • Nail-patella syndrome
  • Neuro-Bechet’s autoimmune disease
  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Neuropathy
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
  • Residual limb pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Seizures (including those characteristic of Epilepsy)
  • Severe fibromyalgia
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Spinal cord disease (including but not limited to arachnoiditis)
  • Spinal cord injury is damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
  • Spinocerebellar ataxia
  • Superior canal dehiscence syndrome
  • Syringomyelia
  • Tarlov cysts
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Ulcerative colitis


Patient Qualifications:

A patient must be at least 18 years of age to apply for a medical marijuana license from the state.  They cannot have a school bus driver’s license or a commercial driving license, nor can they be an active-duty law enforcement officer, correctional officer, probation officer or firefighter.  They must have been diagnosed with one of the above qualifying conditions by a licensed physician, although veterans are exempt from this as long as they have records provided that show treatment over the last 12 months. 


Minors can apply if they have been diagnosed with one of the above conditions, and they can designate a caregiver through the state.


How to Register for Medical Marijuana in Illinois

First, a patient must receive a written certification from a doctor with a diagnosis of their condition and a recommendation for marijuana as treatment.  They must then submit this along with a filled-out application provided by the state, along with their state-issued ID.  Patients can choose between one, two and three-year cards, and pay a fee.  Patients who are terminally ill and determined to have six months to live or less do not have to pay a registration fee.


Qualifying as a Caregiver

A caregiver must be at least 18 years old, and must also be responsible for the housing, health, and safety of their patient. 


Registering as a Caregiver

To register as a caregiver, you must submit an application with written approval from the patient.  You must prove your residency with two documents and provide a photo, before paying an application fee for either a one, two or three years.


Reciprocity Laws

A medical marijuana patient from out of state cannot purchase cannabis from a medical marijuana retailer in Illinois.  However, recreational users who are visiting from out of state can legally buy marijuana from a dispensary as long as they are of age.  They can purchase up to 15 grams of flower, 2.5 grams of concentrate or 250 milligrams of THC in infused products.


Licensing Laws

All cannabis products sold in Illinois must be tested by a third-party laboratory to ensure safety and authenticity. 


Frequently Asked Questions

#1: When Did Weed Become Legal in Illinois?

Recreational marijuana use was legalized in 2019, and legal weed was available for purchase by non-medical users in 2020.


#2: Is it Legal to Dab in Illinois?

Concentrates in controlled amounts are sold throughout the state, and so dabbing is legal in Illinois.


#3: Can I Grow My Own Weed in Illinois?

From Chicago or Rockford, you can legally grow marijuana in IL on your own property, as long as you’re approved to do so by the state.