Legal pot FAQ: Where can I buy it? How much? Where can I smoke it?
The general public will be able to start buying pot on Wednesday, six months after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law a bill legalizing recreational marijuana in Illinois.
Here is a primer on what you need to know ...
Where and when can I start to buy recreational marijuana?
Pot will be available for purchase by adults 21 and older at medical marijuana dispensaries that got "early approval" licenses to sell it.
To date, 37 such licenses have been issued throughout the state, but sales can only take place if the local municipality also gives the OK. In the suburbs, that means dispensaries in Addison, Mundelein and North Aurora will be open for business Wednesday, Jan. 1. Each will have its own hours of operation starting as early as 6 a.m. You can expect long lines.
What's the maximum amount I can purchase?
Illinois residents with a valid state ID or driver's license can purchase up to 30 grams of cannabis flower; up to 500 mg of THC in a cannabis-infused product (including edibles such as gummies, chocolates and baked goods); and up to 5 grams of a cannabis concentrate. Nonresidents can purchase half those amounts. The amounts are cumulative, meaning people can possess all three products at the same time. Also, remember most dispensaries only take cash.
What kind of taxes will I pay and where will the money go?
Cannabis with THC level at or below 35% will be taxed at 10%; cannabis with THC level above 35% will be taxed at 25%; and all cannabis-infused products will be taxed at 20%. Local municipalities can impose additional local taxes up to 3%, as can counties.
Where can I smoke?
Smoking pot will not be allowed in public, defined as "any place where a person could reasonably be expected to be observed by others." Each local police department will decide how to enforce that.
For example, Chicago police said residents won't be able to smoke on their front porches, but officers won't ticket people who smoke on their balconies or in their backyards. Individual towns can decide whether to allow marijuana "lounges," where people can smoke inside the business. (There are none so far in the suburbs.) You also can't use marijuana near people younger than age 21, unless they are registered medical marijuana users.
What if I have a dealer and keep buying from him or her? What if I give pot to my underage kids?
Buying marijuana on the black market -- meaning, not from a state-licensed dispensary -- remains against the law. Buying less than 10 grams is a civil penalty; 10 to 100 grams is a misdemeanor; and more than 100 grams is a felony.
Giving marijuana to someone younger than 21 is a misdemeanor, and if the juvenile experiences great bodily harm as a result, it's a felony.
What happens if police stop me? How will they determine if I'm too high to drive?
Driving under the influence of marijuana is still against the law. Marijuana must be kept in a sealed, odor-proof, child-resistant container while a motor vehicle is in operation. There is no standardized roadside test for marijuana impairment, so officers determine if a driver is impaired based on trained observation.
Some police departments have drug recognition experts who can do a more in-depth evaluation at the police station, but drivers must give their consent.
Can I grow my own marijuana plants?
Only people registered in the medical cannabis program can grow their own plants, up to five per person.
Now that it's legal, can a company refuse to hire me because I smoke pot? Can I get fired for smoking?
The new law allows employers to continue conducting drug testing on employees, before they get hired and at work, based on employer policies. It also allows employers to enforce zero-tolerance drug-use at work. However, THC can stay in the system for weeks, so there might be court challenges about what type of drug test results qualify as actual impairment.