Growing Marijuana in Illinois – IL Cannabis State Laws (2021)

From banning marijuana in 1931, the Prarie State certainly turned around and made some big strides towards legalization within the past decade. While it may have waited a few years to legalize medical marijuana in 2013, Illinois caught up in a big way after it became the first state to legalize commercial sale of recreational cannabis through state legislature just last year. This move seems to be paying off since it has been reported that the state’s recreational marijuana sales have reached as high as $44 million even during the coronavirus pandemic.

But strangely enough, Illinois still does not permit its residents to cultivate marijuana at home for personal use. Under Illinois marijuana laws, only licensed cultivation centers and registered medical marijuana cardholders may legally grow cannabis. However, the state’s relatively relaxed possession laws seem to compensate for this restriction. Even the sentence for cultivating less than 5 plants gets a relatively light penalty and this may encourage more daring pot smokers to grow indoors or guerilla-style. Let’s see what it is exactly that Illinois home growing laws allow.

Overview of Cannabis Growing Laws in Illinois

Unfortunately, Illinois marijuana law is very clear on who can grow marijuana at home and how many:

  • Only patients and designated caregivers registered in the state’s medical cannabis program are allowed to cultivate marijuana at home. 
  • Patients can only grow up to 5 medical marijuana plants over 5 inches tall. The total number of plants per home should not exceed 5 plants. 
  • Growers must keep their plants in a locked space, away from public view.  
  • Growers can tend the plants at a location other than the patient’s home. However, the grower must have the consent of the property owner.

This was last updated in June 2020. We will be updating this guide with new developments that may come out.

Punishments for Violating Illinois Home Grow Laws

It is interesting to see that while home cultivation of recreational marijuana is prohibited under Illinois marijuana laws, the penalties for growing 5 plants or less for personal use seems relatively light. 

  • The cultivation of 5 marijuana plants or fewer without a medical marijuana license is only a civil violation that is punishable by a maximum fine of $200, without jail time. 

However, growing more than 5 plants is already a felony, at the very least a Class 4 that is punishable by 1 to 3 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $25,000. The penalty can go up to 4 to 15 years and a maximum fine of $100,000 for growing more than 200 plants.

Given that all adult residents are legally allowed to possess up to 30 grams, Illinois marijuana laws are not exactly discouraging for those who want to set up a small indoor grow. After all, growing your own gives you more control over the choice of strain and quality of your plants. You’ll also end up saving a lot in the long run.

History of marijuana in Illinois

formulanone from Huntsville, United States / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

It is somewhat surprising that the home cultivation for personal use is still not allowed in Illinois. After banning weed in 1931, the state took a few more decades before legalizing medical marijuana by state legislature in 2013. 

Illinois medical marijuana program

In this decade, the Prarie State rode the wave of legalization started by California when it made history by allowing medical marijuana in 1996. Albeit a bit late, Illinois became the 20th state to authorize a medical cannabis program in 2013. It continued the momentum by decriminalizing possession of small amounts just 3 years after. 

Legalization of recreational use

In 2019, Illinois finally became the 11th state to legalize recreational use marijuana. It was also the first to adopt a regulatory system for its growing, testing, and sales through a state legislature. 

It is evident that Illinois has shown consistent support for pro-weed policies. In fact, an estimated 740,000 marijuana cases may soon be automatically expunged. This is due to the state’s extraordinary efforts to undo the impact of the federal government’s war on drugs. Unfortunately, it has been rumored that Illinois policymakers had to remove recreational home cultivation from HB1538 due to objections from commercial growers. It’s also possible that by prohibiting home cultivation, the state will be able to collect more taxes from recreational marijuana sales.

Furthermore, the punishment for growing 5 plants or fewer is not much of a deterrent. Some Illinois pot smokers may see this as a window of opportunity to grow discreetly. Growing setups too small to yield enough weed to violate possession limits just don’t give the police enough justification to bust into homes, so as long as you grow indoors and do not sell, you won’t get into trouble.

Find the best cannabis seed banks online that ship to the US here.

Growing medical marijuana in Illinois

If you want to grow cannabis at home legally in Illinois, you will have to be at least 21 years old with a qualifying debilitating condition. But oddly enough, it seems that caregivers are actually not allowed to grow on behalf of their patients. According to Illinois marijuana laws, the qualifying patient’s cannabis plants may be tended by an “authorized agent”. You may think that this refers to the designated caregiver since they are also legally allowed to prepare and transport cannabis for the patient. However, the letter of the law does not specify this. What the Illinois Medical Cannabis Registry Program’s caregiver brochure states are the following:

  • A caregiver may only serve one patient. 
  • The caregiver may not use, grow, possess, or distribute medical cannabis. 

How to apply as a patient

Patients who wish to apply for an IDPH Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program card may do so via the program’s eLicense System. Here are the documents applicants will need to submit:

  • A valid government-issued ID. This can be a state ID or an Illinois driver’s license.
  • A 2” x 2” color passport photo.
  • The designated caregiver’s ID.
  • Those applying for a reduced fee will need to provide a copy of their Social Security Benefit Verification statement. Veterans will need a copy of their DD-214.
  • Completed physician’s certification.

Before applying for a medical marijuana registry card, you’ll need to see your primary care doctor to get a certification. Ask your doctor to complete your physician’s certification and return it to you. 

Minor qualifying patients need not submit a photo. However, they do have to submit a complete Application for Registry Identification Card for Qualifying Patients Under 18 Years of Age form and indicate a designated caregiver. Minor applicants also have to have signed health care professional certifications for the use of medical cannabis.

The card registration fees are as follows:

  • $100 for a 1-year registration
  • $200 for 2 years
  • $250 for 3 years 

It gets more affordable for those who qualify for reduced fees:

  • $50 for a 1-year registration
  • $100 for 2 years
  • $125 for 3 years 

Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of Illinois

How does Illinois’s marijuana laws compare with home growing laws in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.

FAQs about growing marijuana in Illinois

Is it legal to grow marijuana in Illinois for recreational purposes?

No, it is still illegal to grow recreational cannabis at home in Illinois. Only licensed commercial growers may cultivate recreational marijuana in the state.

How much marijuana can I grow in Illinois for recreational purposes?

The state does not allow home growing of recreational cannabis. However, the offense of growing 5 plants or fewer is just a fine of $200 or less.

Is it legal to grow marijuana in Illinois for medical purposes?

Yes, registered patients and “authorized agents” are allowed by the law to grow cannabis for medical purposes.

How much marijuana can I grow in Illinois for medical purposes?

Patients may grow and jointly own with their authorized agent up to 5 medical marijuana plants over 5 inches tall. The total number of plants per home should not exceed 5 plants. 

Where can I grow marijuana in Illinois?

You are allowed to grow at your private residence in a locked space, away from public view.

How old do I need to be to grow marijuana in Illinois?

Patients need to be at least 18 years old to be able to legally cultivate medical cannabis at home in Illinois.

Conclusion

Based on the current state of Illinois’ cannabis industry, it’s unlikely that home cultivation recreational marijuana will be legalized anytime soon. Until then, those who wish to tempt fate by growing at home without a medical marijuana card should be as discreet as possible or face a $200 fine. However, it may be difficult to buy seeds for home growing from dispensaries since its really not something commercial growers and dispensaries profit from. If you wish to get seeds to grow marijuana at home, your best bet is to buy online

Thinking About Growing Your Own?

Check out this post where I go into the details about equipment, seeds and the reasons why I got started in this journey.

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