Public Safety

What you should know about legalized recreational marijuana in Illinois

Recreational marijuana goes on sale New Year's Day in Illinois

What's the difference between marijuana, hemp and CBD? Cannabidiol is for sale almost everywhere these days, but some pr
What's the difference between marijuana, hemp and CBD? Cannabidiol is for sale almost everywhere these days, but some prosecutors in Iowa say there are more pressing law enforcement needs than going after an illegal substance that may not do any harm to its users. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

On the west side of the Mississippi River, marijuana is illegal. A quick drive over the bridge to Illinois and the rules become different Wednesday with the New Year.

Despite the sharp line drawn by the Mississippi between legal and illegal, just what is and is not allowed can be as muddy as the river itself.

Here is some clarity:

Where can I legally smoke marijuana?

Those 21 and older may smoke inside Illinois’ private residences or hotels that allow it, but not in the presence of juveniles. Pot is to be consumed indoors, not outside even if you have a fenced-in yard. Consumption in public or in a vehicle is prohibited. Cities can allow marijuana consumption at tobacco shops or dispensaries, but none will have rules in place by January, said Pamela Althoff, executive director of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois.

How much can I buy at a time?

For Illinois residents, the limit will be 30 grams. For out-of-state residents like Iowans, it will be 15 grams. But there are major supply issues, so how much a person will actually be able to buy initially remains to be seen. Flower sales are unlikely to be available for the recreational market for months, instead leaving edibles and vaping cartridges for recreational users. Nature’s Treatment of Illinois, in Milan, will be the only shop in the Quad Cities that sells marijuana and marijuana derivatives to recreational users.

Can I get in trouble for having it in Iowa?

Yes. Illinois laws change, but everything remains the same in the Hawkeye State.

Can my employer still drug test me?

Yes. But employers are reassessing their rules.

What’s the difference between marijuana, hemp and CBD?

Marijuana is a cannabis plant that contains THC, the psychoactive part that leads to a feeling of euphoria, or a highs. CBD is a derivative of a hemp plant, which contains much lower levels of THC than marijuana. CBD often is turned into oil. Hemp can also be turned into fibers that have many uses, including for construction materials. Hemp can be legally grown indoors and outside across the country, while marijuana still is federally illegal. CBD is technically illegal in Iowa, but enforcement has been lax recently.

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What’s the difference between flowers and edibles?

Illinois marijuana cultivation centers grow the cannabis plant, which can produce buds that are trimmed. Those buds can be turned into other products, such as oils for vaping or infused into baked goods for edibles, or remain as flowers to be smoked.

Will it cost more than it does illegally on the street?

The legal recreational market likely will have higher prices than the black market for years until supply issues are resolved. Legal marijuana sales include a tax.

Is legal pot regulated?

Heavily. Illinois tracks everything from seed to sale, meaning every seed of a plant is tracked and traced until it is sold at a marijuana dispensary. Before it is sold, each product undergoes state testing.

How can I pay for it?

Cash only, and a photo ID card is needed. Sellers will verify the customer’s home state and age before the customer can enter the dispensary. The amounts that can be purchased vary depending if you are an Illinois or an out-of-state resident.

How much marijuana should you smoke? How much is too much?

Mark Woods of Star Flower Clinic and Wellness said that compared with alcohol, cannabis is more complicated because it contains several chemicals. “You can’t compare apples to apples in this situation, so there isn’t any easy, simple, hard and fast rule to say, ‘This many joints will make you this intoxicated,’” he said. From a medical standpoint, Woods said those who choose to partake should start with a product that has a low THC concentration. “Depending on their problems and reasons for using it, they can increase the THC amount from there.”

As for how much is too much, Woods said that can be measured by when a user becomes cognitively impaired. Symptoms include lightheadedness and not feeling in control of what’s around you. Time is the cure — Woods recommends sitting down in a comfortable, safe location and waiting it out. If it’s more severe, like chest pains or a panic attack, get to a hospital.

The Associated Press contributed.

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