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Medical vs. recreational marijuana: what's allowed?

Laws on the use of medical marijuana vary greatly from state to state, but Illinois is one state that allows medical marijuana under certain circumstances. However, the line between medical and recreational use can easily become muddled if laws are misunderstood.

What are the consequences for marijuana use? What are the differences between using medical and recreational marijuana in Illinois?

Recreational marijuana use

In Illinois, any use of marijuana outside of prescribed medical purposes is illegal. This includes possessing, using, selling, or cultivating it. The penalties for marijuana use in Illinois include fines and jail time, and the severity of each of these increases based on how much marijuana someone possesses. Even small amounts of marijuana can lead to at least a year in jail and very significant fines. Offenses can also have large consequences in a person's future.

Medical marijuana use

In 2013, Illinois launched the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, which allows the use of medical marijuana if the person is registered with the Pilot Program and their doctor has recommended the use of marijuana for their medical condition. Only certain medical conditions qualify.

Even those registered for the Pilot Program must still adhere to certain rules for marijuana use. Members must carry their Pilot Program ID at all times. They can only possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana at a time and they may never cultivate marijuana or sell it to others. They may also be subject to a DUI like anyone else if the amount of marijuana in their system impairs their ability to drive, though driving with a legal level of medical marijuana in their system would not be considered an offense.

If someone in the Pilot Program were charged with a DUI for unsafe levels in their system, it is still possible that usual penalties would be decreased based on medical status, necessity of the marijuana for medical reasons, and the doctor's recommendation for its use.

In short, recreational use is always illegal, and medical use is only legal by membership of the Pilot Program and a doctor's recommendation.

If you are legally allowed to possess medical marijuana but have been charged with drug-related crimes, such as illegal drug possession or a DUI, a local attorney knowledgeable in drug charges will be able to help you.

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