Illinois is making national headlines as it moves toward the legalization of possession, use, and growth of marijuana in the state. Amendments to the state’s drug laws were introduced in the state house and state senate in late March 2017. The new laws would essentially repeal current legal prohibitions and criminal sanctions associated with marijuana possession in Illinois. However, these current laws and punishments are still on the books.
Conviction of marijuana possession in Illinois can have significant and lifelong consequences. If you or someone you know has been charged with marijuana possession in Illinois you should contact an experienced defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Current Illinois Marijuana Possession Laws
Possession of Marijuana
Illinois generally prohibits the possession, use, and growth of cannabis in the state. However, Illinois does boast considerably more lenient marijuana possession laws than neighboring states. Under 720 ILCS 550/100 – Illinois’ “Cannabis Control Act” – penalties for marijuana possession vary depending on the amount in possession and whether the behavior is a first or subsequent offense.
For a first offense in Illinois:
- Possession of fewer than 10 grams is a civil violation punishable by a fine of no more than $100;
- Possession of between 10-30 grams is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine of $2,500;
- Possession of between 30-500 grams is a Class 4 felony punishable by 1-6 years in prison and fines up to $25,000;
- Possession of between 500-2,000 grams is a Class 3 felony punishable by 2-10 years in prison and fines up to $25,000;
- Possession of between 2,000-5,000 grams is a Class 2 felony punishable by 3-14 years in prison and fines up to $25,000; and
- Possession of more than 500 grams is a Class 1 felony punishable by 4-30 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.
For subsequent marijuana possession offenses in Illinois, possession of between 10-30 grams is heightened to a Class 4 Felony and possession of 30-500 grams is heightened to a Class 3 felony.
Possession of Marijuana Plants
Illinois also prohibits and punishes the possession of cannabis plants. Possession of up 5 plants is a Class A misdemeanor, 5-20 plants is a Class 4 felony, 2-50 plants is a Class 3 felony, and possession of more than 50 plants is a Class 2 felony with a fine of up to $100,000.
Punishments and penalties are more severe for larger amounts of possession. Possession of a significant amount of marijuana tends to point toward distribution rather than personal use.
Defenses to Marijuana Possession
Illinois is one of 29 states in the country to permit the use of medical marijuana in certain situations. The Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Pilot Program, which became effective in 2013, allows individuals who are diagnosed with certain debilitating conditions or terminal illnesses to apply for a medical cannabis registry identification card. Card-carrying patients are then permitted to purchase medical marijuana at certain state-approved dispensaries. The list of debilitating conditions is listed in full on the Illinois Department of Public Health website, but includes:
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Crohn’s Disease
- Fibrous Dysplasia
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Seizure Disorders
- Severe Fibromyalgia.
If you are a pilot program participant and have been charged with possession of marijuana you should contact an attorney to get the charges dropped. It is important, however, to purchase medical marijuana from your designated dispensary.
Other defenses for marijuana possession could include:
- Improper search and seizure;
- Violation of Constitutional rights; or
- Lack of evidence of possession.
Proposed Marijuana Possession Legalization
The proposed legislation – which is pending before the state senate and state house – would amend current law to legalize possession, use, and growth of certain amounts of marijuana. The law would make it legal for residents of Illinois 21 years of age and older to purchase 28 grams of marijuana. Nonresidents 21 years of age and older would also be permitted to purchase marijuana, but the amount would be limited to 14 grams. Purchasing marijuana would require proof of age and be sold in a manner similar to alcohol. Selling to underage smokers would be punishable by law. Interestingly, public smoking would still be prohibited, so even if you legally purchased marijuana you could face a fine of $100 for smoking in public.
The legislation would also legalize the sale of marijuana paraphernalia and allow residents to cultivate their own plants. Illinois residents may soon be able to grow up to 5 plants without retribution.
Chicago Marijuana Possession Defense Attorneys
If you or someone you know has been charged with possession of marijuana in Chicago, contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys for assistance. The attitude toward marijuana possession – especially negligible amounts – is changing, and it may be possible to negotiate with the state for lighter punishments until the legalization is effective.
At Kostopolous Law Group, LLC, our marijuana possession defense attorneys have years of experience working with clients who have been arrested for having small amounts of marijuana and keeping their criminal records clean. Contact us today to learn about your legal rights and options and how we may be able to help you.