Personal Cannabis Possession Is Legal in IL… Just Not 600lbs of It
As of the beginning of 2020, it is legal to sell and buy cannabis in Illinois. The state has followed in the path of California and Colorado and made it legal to produce and sell cannabis for medical and recreational consumption in limited quantities.
While many people find this exciting, some are taking it a little too far. For example, a pair of men in Bureau County was recently arrested for possessing more than 600 pounds of cannabis.
Personal possession of cannabis is legal, yes. However, there are still limits regarding how much you can legally possess at a given time.
The Distinction Between Personal Possession and Distribution
The place where these two men went wrong was in scale. Illinois allows both individuals and retailers to have cannabis on hand, but the amount permitted is quite different.
Retailers are permitted to have as much cannabis as they can purchase from a cannabis grower, but they must have one of only 75 available dispensary licenses in the state. This means that there are very few businesses in Illinois that have free reign to possess cannabis.
While more licenses are being granted over time, the two men who were arrested did not possess any such license.
Meanwhile, private individuals have significantly lower limits on the amount of cannabis they can own. Specifically, Illinoisans are not allowed to possess more than just 30 grams (a little more than one ounce) of cannabis at a time. People from out of state are only allowed to have half that (15 grams of cannabis) at a time!
A quick calculation and you realize the two men were arrested for allegedly possessing 4,800 times more cannabis each than is legally allowed for personal possession.
Current Illinois Cannabis Laws: Still Stricter Than You Think
Just because cannabis is legal doesn’t mean it’s impossible to go to prison for possession. In fact, felony charges for relatively small amounts of cannabis are well within the realm of possibility.
For example, an offender’s first offense of possessions between 30 and 100 grams (1-3.5 ounces) of cannabis is a misdemeanor that carries the potential for a year in prison and up to $2,500 in fines.
Any subsequent offense automatically becomes a felony charge. Non-Illinois residents face the same penalties at just half those amounts. Possessing more than 5,000 grams – about 11 pounds – is a felony offense that can lead to 15 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
Furthermore, if you are charged with the sale or trafficking of cannabis without a license, anything more than 10 grams is a felony charge. Trafficking or selling is essentially providing cannabis for another party’s use without a license.
Trafficking charges can be pressed for as little as 2.5 grams, with penalties including up to 6 months in prison and $1,500 in fines.
On the other end of the scale, trafficking more than 5,000 grams of cannabis without a license is a felony. It carries a 6-year mandatory minimum sentence, with the potential for 30 years in prison and $200,000 in fines.
Cannabis is legal in Illinois, but it’s still heavily regulated. It’s easier than you’d think to accidentally break one of these laws.
If you have been charged with a cannabis violation in Illinois, don’t hesitate to reach out to a qualified cannabis attorney. They can help you navigate the court system and understand your options.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes. His work has been recognized by Avvo, Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, and others, and he has been featured on countless news outlets for his experience and knowledge in criminal law.