Cannabis in Illinois

Cannabis in Illinois is decriminalized and legal for medical use. As of May 2019, nearly 67,000 qualifying patients participate in the state's medical cannabis and opioid alternative programs.[1][2] Since legalization in November 2015, retail sales in Illinois have reached over $323 million at 55 dispensaries across the state.

Legislation is currently pending to legalize recreational use and is expected to occur in early 2019 with support of Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker.[3][4]

Prohibition (1931)[edit]

In 1931, Illinois prohibited recreational use of cannabis, as part of a nationwide trend across 29 states in the early 20th century.[5]

Cannabis Control Act (1978)[edit]

Illinois passed the Cannabis Control Act in 1978, which technically allows for medical marijuana. However, in order for it to become an actuality, action was required from two state departments: Human Services and the State Police. Neither department took action.[6][7]

Medical cannabis (2013)[edit]

The Illinois General Assembly passed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act in 2013.[8] The law legalizes the use of medical cannabis in tightly controlled circumstances.[9] In August 2013, Governor Patrick Quinn signed into law the state's medical marijuana program, which would take effect on January 1. making it the 20th state to do so.[10]

"Legally registered patients" may, with a prescription from a medical caregiver, apply for an ID card that allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The law lists over 30 specific medical conditions that may be legally treated using cannabis, and allows the Department of Public Health to add other conditions to the list via administrative rulemaking. Applications for patients, growers, and vendors began in September 2014.[11]

As of April 2019, over 62,000 qualifying patients participate in the state's medical cannabis and opioid alternative programs.

Decriminalization (2016)[edit]

In July 2016, Illinois reduced punishment for under 10 grams of cannabis to a $100–200 fine; it was a misdemeanor previously. The law also sets the requirement for DWI at 5 nanograms/ml of THC in the blood.[12][13]

Proposed recreational use (2017)[edit]

On March 22, 2017, Illinois lawmakers proposed legalizing recreational marijuana in the state.[14] The measure would also allow residents to possess up to 28 grams of cannabis, or about an ounce, and to grow five plants. Early estimates found that legalized marijuana would generate between $350 to $700 million in annual sales.[15] The Chicago Tribune reported legislation was "widely expected to pass" in 2019, following election of pro-legalization governor JB Pritzker and a favorable state legislature.[16]

Medical cannabis expansion (2018)[edit]

On August 28, 2018, Illinois' medical cannabis program greatly expanded becoming available as an opioid painkiller replacement.[17] The legislation also eased the application process as applicants will no longer have to be fingerprinted or undergo criminal background checks. Some estimate the expansion could bring in up to 365,000 new patients into the medical marijuana program generating an additional $425 million in revenue for the state.[18]

Recreational Legalization (2019)[edit]

Current Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker supports legalizing recreational marijuana in the state and has indicated it as a top priority.[19][20] In his inaugural speech on January 14, 2019, Pritzker pledged, "In the interests of keeping the public safe from harm, expanding true justice in our criminal justice system, and advancing economic inclusion, I will work with the legislature to legalize, tax and regulate the sale of recreational cannabis in Illinois."[21]

Pritzker received an A rating from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in their 2019 gubernatorial scorecard.[22]


  1. ^ "MCPP Update – May 8, 2019 - Medical Cannabis Pilot Program". Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  2. ^ "OAPP Update – May 8, 2019 - Medical Cannabis Pilot Program". Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  3. ^ "Dems promote pot legalization plan during North Side town hall: 'This is coming'". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  4. ^ "First bill emerges this year to legalize marijuana in Illinois — would allow up to 24 plants at home". Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  5. ^ Also from Bruce Rushton (2012-02-09). "The war on weed". Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  6. ^ "Medical Marijuana Is Already Legal in Illinois".
  7. ^ "720 ILCS 550/ Cannabis Control Act".
  8. ^ "Medical Cannabis Pilot Program". Illinois Department of Agriculture. 2014. Retrieved September 6, 2014.
  9. ^ Johnson, Carla K. (January 21, 2014). "Illinois Medical Marijuana Rules Unveiled". NBC Universal Media. Retrieved September 6, 2014.
  10. ^ "Illinois governor to sign medical marijuana bill today". 2013-08-02. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  11. ^ Illinois Department of Agriculture.
  12. ^ "Rauner reduces punishment for minor pot possession from jail to citation". Chicago Tribune. 2016-07-29. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  13. ^ "Illinois is latest state to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana". July 30, 2016.
  14. ^ McCoppin, Robert. "Illinois lawmakers propose legalizing recreational marijuana".
  15. ^ Robert McCoppin (March 22, 2018), "Marijuana referendum could strengthen movement to legalize in Illinois, but naysayers say ballot question unfair", Chicago Tribune
  16. ^ Robert McCoppin (November 9, 2018), "With Pritzker win, pot legalization is now in legislators' hands, but not all are on board", Chicago Tribune
  17. ^ McCoppin, Robert. "Rauner signs medical marijuana expansion bill allowing drug as painkiller alternative".
  18. ^ "Chart: Medical cannabis as alternative to opioids could give Illinois' MMJ program a massive boost". Marijuana Business Daily. 25 June 2018.
  19. ^ Bremer, Shelby. "Pritzker Says He Wants to Legalize Marijuana in Illinois". NBC Chicago. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  20. ^ "Pritzker wants to legalize recreational marijuana 'nearly right away' in Illinois". WFLD. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  21. ^ Angell, Tom (14 January 2019). "Illinois Governor Pledges To Legalize Marijuana In Inaugural Address". Marijuana Moment. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  22. ^ "All State Governors - NORML - Working to Reform Marijuana Laws - Page #2". Retrieved 19 January 2019.

External links[edit]