The Chicago Tribune recently reported that the majority of Americans now support legalization of marijuana. Though marijuana possession remains illegal under federal law, a number of states have legalized medical marijuana possession, and a few have even legalized it for recreational use. Despite these changes in public opinion, Illinois still criminalizes marijuana possession.
It is still a crime to possess marijuana in Illinois. There is no medical exception. There is no “personal use” exception. Possession of any amount of marijuana is illegal under Illinois law.
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. Unfortunately, these local laws are often misunderstood. First of all, they are all different. 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 your violation, including: your age, the location you were caught (airport, school, park), and whether you have any prior convictions.
Finally, almost all, if not all, leave the decision of whether to arrest or ticket to the individual officer’s discretion. That means that even if you are eligible for a ticket only, the officer can decide to arrest you and have you charged under state law.
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.
Penalties for Violating the Marijuana Laws
The penalties for violating the marijuana laws are contained in the Cannabis Control Act. Two factors influence the penalty in Illinois: amount in possession and whether there is intent to distribute or manufacture the drug. Generally the more you have, the more serious the crime, and if you are manufacturing it, delivering it, or possessing it with the intent to deliver it, it is treated as a more serious crime than if you simply possess it. Also, the crime is not just possession of cannabis, but also possession of a substance containing cannabis. This means that if you use a misdemeanor amount of cannabis to make a pan of pot brownies, you are now in possession of a much heavier substance containing cannabis, and could be charged with a felony!
Although the law remains very strict in Illinois, it may be changing. The Huffington Post reported this month that the Illinois Legislature has all but approved a Medical Marijuana bill. Until the law catches up with public opinion, however, seek the immediate assistance of a qualified Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney if you are ever accused of violating these laws.