Equity Project State Briefing
Is Cannabis Legal in Illinois?
Cannabis in Illinois is legal for both medical and adult use.
In the Illinois adult use framework, state residents 21+ may possess up to 30 grams of cannabis flower, 500 milligrams of cannabis in THC-infused products, or 5 grams of cannabis concentrate. Illinois visitors are able to possess half those amounts. Unlike medical marijuana patients, adult users are not permitted to grow marijuana at home. Within the medical framework a patient may possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis within a 14 day period unless given a waiver by a certifying health care professional. Medical patients are allowed to grow five plants at a time.
Other Licensing Provisions
- License Caps:
The state of Illinois does have licensing caps within its adult use framework, which have shifted and increased over time due to litigation and additional laws. The law specifies how many of each license type can be distributed in each region of the state, based on the region’s percentage of the state’s population. Additionally, localities with over 500,000 residents can opt out of participating in adult use sales.
Application Selection Process
- Selection System:
Illinois distributes its adult use cannabis licenses through a “Qualified Lottery.” The lottery is limited to applicants who have at least 213 of 250 points (85%) awarded as part of the application scoring.
Felony Disqualification on Ownership
- Ownership Exclusion for Felony Convictions:
- Exemption for Cannabis Offenses:
The state of Illinois does not specifically disqualify applicants from cannabis licensure due to past convictions, however applicants must complete a background check to prove they are of “good moral character.” No application for licensure shall be denied by reason of a finding of lack of good moral character when the finding is based solely upon the fact that the applicant has previously been convicted of one or more criminal offenses.
When reviewing a prior conviction of an initial applicant for the purpose of determining good moral character, the Department must consider evidence of rehabilitation and mitigating factors in the applicant’s record, including the specific factors set forth within the law (in subsection (a) of Section 2105-131 of this Act [20 ILCS 2105/2105-131).
The department should review mitigating factors and evidence of rehabilitation to determine whether a prior conviction will impair the ability of the applicant to engage in the practice for which a license is sought.
Employee Criminal Records
- Conviction Restrictions for Employees:
- Exemption for Cannabis Offenses:
Cannabis employees are required to have the proper state badging which includes a state level background check. Employers may conduct background checks on employees in compliance with the Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act, and the The Employee Background Fairness Act, Illinois version of a Ban the Box provisions. An employer is not allowed to require an employee to disclose sealed or expunged offenses, unless otherwise required by law.
In January 2021, the Illinois legislature passed “The Employee Background Fairness Act” (Senate Bill 1480) to make using criminal records in employment decisions a civil rights violation unless there is a “substantial relationship” between the record and job or an “unreasonable risk” to property or the safety of individuals or the general public. Employers must now consider these factors: The length of time since the conviction; The number of convictions that appear on the conviction record; The nature and severity of the conviction and its relationship to the safety and security of others; The facts or circumstances surrounding the conviction; The age of the employee at the time of the conviction; and Evidence of rehabilitation efforts.
Availability of Expungements
Illinois offers automatic expungements for cannabis convictions of possessions of 30 grams or less which occurred prior to June 2019. Automatic expungements will occur at different intervals based on the date of the offense. All records should be expunged by January 1, 2025. Individuals may petition the court to expunge convictions for possession of up to 500 grams and sale of up to 30 grams.