CHICAGO — Recreational marijuana became legal in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020, yet for many the rules about what is allowed and what isn’t are still hazy.
It is legal for Illinois residents 21 and over to purchase, possess and consume cannabis in certain places, though municipalities have the leeway to decide what they ultimately allow.
As laws, attitudes and policies on the green stuff continue to evolve, it leaves plenty of gray area for consumers. We took a close look at current regulations for cannabis use in Chicago to answer the burning question: Where is it legal to smoke weed in Chicago?
Is it legal to smoke pot in public in Chicago?
No. It’s not legal to smoke or otherwise consume cannabis in public in Chicago. That includes areas like parks, streets, sidewalks, buses and trains, and areas near dispensaries, according to the City of Chicago’s cannabis information site.
It is legal to smoke marijuana at home in my backyard?
Yes. Adults can legally consume weed on private property, so long as the property owner is OK with it.
That means you can smoke inside your house, or a friend’s house, or in areas such as your (or their) backyard or balcony.
However, landlords of rented properties may prohibit it and therefore it would not be allowed, according to the city’s cannabis site.
Can I get high in my car?
No. Consuming cannabis in any vehicle — whether it’s running or not — is illegal.
Don’t fall for the misguided belief that you can’t get in trouble if the car isn’t on. Like alcohol or other mind-altering substances, you can get a DUI in Chicago for driving while high or operating a vehicle under the influence of cannabis, according to the city’s cannabis website.
Even using medical marijuana before, during or after driving (if you’re still in the vehicle) can constitute an offense.
The intoxication limit for tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in your system for driving is 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, or 10 nanograms of THC per millileter of another bodily substance, according to the Illinois Secretary of State. THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.
A first offense for smoking weed in your car is considered a misdemeanor and could result in up to a year in jail, a year of license suspension and a $2,500 fine.
Can I smoke marijuana in my hotel room or an Airbnb?
Like homes, hotels and vacation rental properties, such as those on Airbnb and VRBO, are private and therefore subject to owner discretion. Before recreational marijuana became legal in 2020, many major hotel chains like Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt vowed to ban it under their existing “no smoking” policies.
Airbnb does allow the possession and consumption of cannabis by adults “in areas where it is legal and does not violate any house rules,” according to its website.
Essentially, your Airbnb host has to be cool with it. However, guests can’t search for weed-friendly properties directly, and hosts can’t explicitly say it in their listings. Usually, hosts make it known with listing names that describe themselves as “420-friendly.”
Regardless of which route you go, if you want approval to smoke weed while traveling, you may want to reach out to the hotel or host first.
Can I smoke weed while riding my bike?
The answer here is still no. While you won’t get a DUI, which deals with motor vehicles, you’re still in public.
Is it legal to smoke pot in a dispensary in Chicago?
No, not in Chicago.
The state of Illinois allows it, but leaves it up to local governments to decide whether they want to grant the permits to do so. According to the city’s cannabis website, you can consume cannabis at businesses that have an on-premise consumption license — but Chicago dispensaries don’t yet have those.
There is the concept of cannabis lounges, which allow customers to bring their own weed or purchase it at the lounge and consume it on the premises.
Although allowing consumption lounges in Chicago was part of the city’s original plan when weed became legal in 2020, it has failed to advance out of City Council. Some suburbs, including Wheeling and Mundelein, have them.
Your best bet is to wait until you’re home or at a friend’s house to light up.
What happens if I get caught smoking weed in public in Chicago?
If you are caught, you could receive a warning or be forced to toss your goods in the trash — or you could be subject to a $50 fine for a first offense.
If you’re caught more than once within a 30-day period, each subsequent fine is $100. You could also be ordered to perform community service or attend a drug education program.
What’s the likelihood I could smoke marijuana in Chicago and not get caught or cited?
That depends. Despite the rules, people smoke and consume cannabis in public spaces in Chicago every day and most of them aren’t cited.
However, that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen. It would be much harder to cite someone, or even know they’ve consumed weed, if they pulled out a cannabis gummy from their pocket and popped it into their mouth at the beach as opposed to someone who is smoking a joint in front of the Art Institute or hotboxing in a speeding car.
The method of consumption, type of cannabis, location, proximity to families and children, and activities you’re engaging in can all draw extra attention and scrutiny.
Are edibles legal in Chicago?
Yes and no. When it comes to edibles, Chicago’s cannabis law shares the same definition of “cannabis” as the state’s Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which includes “cannabis-infused products.”
Edibles containing over 0.03 percent THC — like gummies and baked goods — are technically off-limits anywhere that flower is.
This also applies to products like topical ointments, tinctures, vapes and oils.
Are CBD products legal in Chicago?
CBD, which is an extract derived from hemp that doesn’t produce a “high,” is not subject to the state’s marijuana law. As long as they contain less than 0.03 percent THC, CBD products are perfectly legal.
CBD products are highly available at corner stores and smoke shops in Chicago. Some cafes and bakeries in Chicago specialize in offering hemp- and CBD-infused food and drink products. In that case, products can be consumed on-site.
It’s important to note, however, that these products aren’t tested and regulated at the same level marijuana is.
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