Recreational weed finally became legal in Chicago (and the rest of Illinois) on January 1, 2020, but there are plenty of intricacies to the laws that allow folks to toke up legally that you may not be up-to-speed on. That's why we've gathered nearly everything you need to know about recreational weed in Chicago, whether you're a resident looking to grab some green or a visitor getting familiar with what's allowed and what's not allowed. We'll clue you in on where you can stock up on supplies, what you'll need to pay for your weed and where you should consume it (sadly, Chicago's beautiful parks aren't the best place). And if you get the munchies, we can definitely recommend some cheap eats in Chicago. Read on for the answers to all of your sticky icky questions about recreational weed in Chicago.
How old must you be to purchase weed in Chicago?
In Chicago (and the entire state of Illinois), you must be 21 or older and have a valid ID to legally possess, purchase and consume cannabis products. It's possible for anyone 18 or older to obtain a medical cannabis card, but you must have doctor attest that you have a qualifying condition.
Where can you purchase legal weed in Chicago?
Legal weed can only be purchased at licensed dispensaries throughout Chicago. While there were only a handful of dispensaries selling recreational weed in Chicago when it was legalized in 2020, the number has steadily increased since then. Our list of the best dispensaries in Chicago is a good place to start.
What kinds of cannabis products are sold at dispensaries in Chicago?
You'll find a wide array of cannabis products available for purchase at local dispensaries, including flower, pre-rolled joints, vaporizer cartridges, concentrates, edibles, topicals and tinctures. You can even find THC-infused beverages! Just like any other industry, the selection of products available at each shop varies—if you have something specific that you're looking for, you'll likely need to do some research. Fortunately, near every Chicago dispensary provides an updated menu of recreational cannabis products it offers on its website.
Why do you have to pay in cash at Chicago dispensaries?
Recreational cannabis may be legal in Illinois and many other states, but cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I substance (among other drugs like heroin and cocaine) by the federal government. That makes it difficult for federally regulated financial institutions like banks and credit card companies to deal with funds derived from cannabis sales, which could potentially be interpreted as violating federal anti-money laundering laws. And that's why cash is still king at dispensaries in Chicago and the rest of the United States.
If you forget cash, most Chicago dispensaries have an ATM on-site, or can point you in the direction of the closest one. Some dispensaries have also started offering cashless ATM transactions, allowing customers to use a debit card and allowing the dispensary to "withdraw" cash without actually having to handle any—the only downside to this payment method is that it typically comes with a fee.
Where can I legally smoke or consume weed in Chicago?
The only places where recreational weed can legally be consumed in Chicago is on private property, though it's "subject to the discretion of the property owner." If you rent a property, this means that your landlord could conceivably prohibit you from consuming cannabis on their property, though it's difficult to fathom how they might enforce this. So, consuming cannabis in your apartment or house is your safest bet. If you'd rather smoke outdoors, guidance from Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Police Department states that a backyard or balcony is an acceptable place to consume cannabis.
The places where cannabis consumption is not allowed are far more numerous—essentially, any public place is off limits. This includes the city's streets, parks and patios at bars. That certainly hasn't stopped Chicagoans from surreptitiously (or obviously) flouting these rules and smoking a joint in public, as enforcement is often lax in some parts of the city. But if you want to ensure that you'll avoid a ticket, you're better off consuming cannabis in the comfort of your own home before you find things to do in Chicago while you're high.
How much legal weed are you allowed to possess in Chicago?
There's a distinction between how much cannabis an Illinois resident can possess and how much a non-resident can possess, depending on the type of product. Illinois residents can have up to 30 grams of cannabis flower, cannabis-infused products (like edibles and tinctures) with up to 500 milligrams of THC and up to 5 grams of cannabis concentrates like oils and creams. Non-residents are restricted to half of those ammounts: 15 grams of cannabis flower, 250 milligrams of THC in cannabis-infused products and 2.5 grams of cannabis concentrates. For most folks, resident or not, this is a lot of weed.
Can I grow my own weed in Chicago?
No, not legally, at least. The one exception to this rule is for medical cannabis patients, who are allowed to possess up to five cannabis plants in their primary residence. If you want to legally grow your own supply, you'll need to qualify for and obtain an Illinois medical cannabis card.
Can I take legal weed from Chicago across state lines?
Nope. According to Illinois regulations, cannabis cannot be taken across state lines, whether by car or by plane. The TSA has installed cannabis amnesty boxes at O'Hare and Midway airports, allowing travelers to get rid of any weed they might have on their person before boarding a plane. Naturally, you'll hear plenty of stories about folks evading this law and getting weed through airport security undetected—but you're probably better off smoking (or consuming) it before you take a trip.
How does the price of legal weed compare to the weed you might buy from a dealer down the street?
Unless you buy from a very fancy dealer, the price of a single gram of legal recreational weed is likely higher than what you'll pay for a comparable gram on the street. And it's not just the price of the weed itself that's higher—legal recreational weed comes with taxes levied by Illinois, Cook County and Chicago, which can add up quickly. It's possible that the price of recreational weed in Illinois may eventually drop, as it has in some states on the West Coast. While many potheads have stuck with their dealers (and enjoyed the savings), plenty of Chicago cannabis users are willing to pay a premium to get their weed legally.