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Caught Smoking Weed In Public? You Could Get $50 Fine Under City’s New Rules

City Council approved cutting the fines for possessing weed in public, which were previously as high as $500 for the first offense.

Aldermen discuss a proposed ordinance to change the city's marijuana rules with the mayor's staff.
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CHICAGO — City Council approved changes to the city’s rules that drastically cut fines for smoking weed in public.

The new rules, approved Tuesday, go into effect before recreational marijuana sales begin on Jan. 1. While Chicagoans will be allowed to smoke weed at home, it will be illegal to consume cannabis in any public place, vehicle or other places prohibited by state law.

The new city rules reduce the fines for possessing less than 30 grams of cannabis in unauthorized locations to $50 for the first offense, down from $250-$500 previously. The fine for a second offense will now be $100, down from $500. Fines are not mandatory and anyone cited could instead be required to attend drug education or a restorative justice program.

Aldermen passed the new rules in 45-5 vote with Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) and Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th) and Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) voting against the measure.

Under state law, Illinois residents will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis flower, 5 grams of concentrate and up to 500 milligrams of edibles, but not in every location.

It will still be illegal to possess recreational marijuana in or near a school, school bus, correctional facilities and at a private residence that is used to operate a daycare.

Brandon Nemec, deputy director of the Chicago Police Department’s Office of Legal Affairs, reminded aldermen during a Public Safety committee meeting that the updated fines apply to possession under 30 grams. Any amount over the state’s limits are still subject to misdemeanor penalties under the state’s Cannabis Control Act.

Larry Mishkin of Hoban Law Group said it’s important to remember marijuana will not be legal in all places in Illinois come Jan. 1.

“The law is creating an exception with certain rules and if adults 21 years of age or older follow those rules, they are allowed to purchase and consume cannabis, but they’re very narrowly tailored rules,” Mishkin said.

Mishkin said the easiest way to avoid a citation is to keep receipts. 

“If you have your stuff that you purchased at a dispensary, you should be prepared to show the police officer a receipt,” Mishkin said.

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