While marijuana possession remains illegal under federal law, a number of states have legalized medical marijuana possession, and a few, like Colorado and Washington, have even legalized marijuana for recreational use. Despite these changes in public opinion, marijuana possession is still a crime in Illinois.
Illinois Marijuana Laws
The penalties for violating marijuana laws are all laid out in two sections of the Cannabis Control Act: 720 ILCS 550/4 and 720 ILCS 550/5. Illinois marijuana laws focus on:
- Personal possession vs. Intent to distribute
Generally the more marijuana you have, the more serious the crime. And if you are in possession of it with the intent to deliver, it is treated as a more serious crime. Even sentences that don't involve serving time for marijuana possession can include steep fines AND legal fees, classes or drug treatment, random drug tests and community service.
Also keep in mind, the crime is not just possession of cannabis, but possession of a substance containing cannabis. This means that if you use a misdemeanor amount of cannabis to make a pan of marijuana brownies, you are now in possession of a much heavier substance containing cannabis, and could be charged with a felony!
Marijuana Possession Is a Crime
Remember, when it comes to marijuana or any illicit drug, possession - not ownership - is the crime. "It isn't mine," is not a defense. Plus, if someone has marijuana in his or her car and gets pulled over by a police officer who smells it, the officer has probable cause to search the car.
- Possession of less than 2.5 grams of marijuana is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a jail term of up to 30 days as well as a $1,500 fine.
- Possession of between 2.5 - 10 grams of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months imprisonment as well as a $1,500 fine.
- Possession of paraphernalia is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison, as well as a minimum fine of $750. All paraphernalia is subject to forfeiture.
Marijuana Laws May Vary By Location
Marijuana is particularly dangerous for recovering alcoholics and addicts and can lead to relapse into one's primary addictive substance.
Depending on where you live and how much you have on you, getting caught with marijuana can either spell big trouble or an expensive fine. Some towns and cities have local laws that allow police to write tickets instead of making arrests when people are caught in possession of small amounts of cannabis.
In Chicago, for example, possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a more lenient ordinance violation, similar to a traffic ticket. Note, though, if caught with weed in a school zone or park or in public openly smoking marijuana, you'll still get arrested! Those cited with Chicago ordinance violations will be forced to pay a fine up to $500 depending on the amount of cannabis in possession.
Unfortunately, these local laws are often misunderstood. First of all, an amount that is eligible for a ticket in one place may not be in another. The maximum amounts vary from 2.5g to 30g. In addition, there are many circumstances that can affect the violation, including:
- The location (airport, school, park)
- Prior convictions
Marijuana Laws and Driving
Having marijuana or THC in your system is not a crime in and of itself. However, there are local ordinances in some places regarding being "intoxicated" in public, or in the roadway. Also, if you drive with THC in your system, whether or not you are actually impaired, you are committing a DUI.
Illinois laws forbid drivers from operating a motor vehicle if they have a detectable level of an illicit drug or drug metabolite present in their bodily fluids above a specific, state-imposed threshold. Penalties for driving under the influence in Illinois vary according to whether it's a first or subsequent conviction.
A first conviction for driving under the influence of marijuana is a class A misdemeanor. Penalties include up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both.
A violation is a class A misdemeanor. Penalties include a mandatory minimum of five days (and up to one year) in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, and 240 hours of community service.
A third or fourth violation is a class 2 felony, punishable with between three and 7 years in prison, a fine of up to $25,000, or both.