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Don’t Fear the Reefer: 8 Things to Know About Legal Weed

Courtesy of United States Fish and Wildlife ServiceRecreational marijuana became legalized in Illinois Jan. 1.

Since Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the June 25 bill legalizing recreational cannabis, Illinois has spent the last six months preparing for the change Jan. 1, and Illinois residents lined up by the hundreds to get their fix. Here are 8 things to know about legal marijuana.

1. You can’t smoke in your dorm or on campus — and don’t expect to anytime soon

Despite recreational legalization, many colleges — Loyola included — still prohibit cannabis. The federal Drug Free Schools and Communities Act requires universities that receive federal funding to obey federal laws, including those regarding controlled substances, The Phoenix reported. As such, Loyola’s policy regarding weed remains the same. 

“Loyola will not permit the possession or use of marijuana at educational or other activities sponsored, conducted, or authorized by Loyola or its student organizations, whether on or off campus, in any on-campus housing, or in any other Loyola buildings or other property,” according to the Loyola Community Standards. 

Assistant Vice President and Director of Residence Life Deb Schmidt-Rogers didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment from The Phoenix. 

2. You can’t smoke in public

Under the new law, consuming marijuana in public is still a punishable offense. Marijuana can only be used in a private residence — but smoking will be allowed at dispensaries, according to the Chicago Cannabis Zoning Ordinance. It’s also illegal to smoke in a car, even if it’s stationary. 

Torrance Gardner — director of economic and community development for 49th Ward Alderwoman Maria Hadden — said checking leases and rental agreements is the most important thing for recreational marijuana users to remember, as landlords can still ban marijuana smoking in their properties.

3. Only a few places will get to sell it for a while

For the first few months of legal sales, only a few places in Chicago will be able to sell it, The Phoenix reported. Ten places in Chicago are licensed to sell recreational marijuana, according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) website. Dispensary 33 (5001 N. Clark St.) is the closest dispensary to Loyola’s Lake Shore campus — off the Argyle Red Line station about two miles away. Loyola’s Water Tower Campus is located in the cannabis exclusion zone, an area where the sale of recreational cannabis is prohibited by the Cannabis Zoning Ordinance, but the nearest dispensary is NuMed Chicago (1308 W. North Ave.) three miles away. 

Recreational cannabis isn’t going to be available everywhere in Illinois either. The law allows municipalities to decide whether to allow dispensaries or not — similar to “dry counties” that prohibit the sale of alcohol. Chicago allows dispensaries but some suburbs, such as Naperville, voted against them, according to the Naperville government website. Medical dispensaries are still allowed in Naperville.

4. Get ready to wait in line

First-week recreational cannabis sales have totaled around $10.8 million, according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation website. All those sales came from the hoards of people who waited in hour-long lines for the product at local dispensaries. The high demand also caused shortages at some dispensaries, which are required to prioritize and reserve some products for medical marijuana users. 

5. You can’t grow your own marijuana 

Only users of medical marijuana — made legal in 2013 for people with conditions such as HIV/AIDS, ulcerative colitis and lupus according to the Illinois Department of Public Health website — can grow their own plants, according to the new law. Medical marijuana users are also limited to only five plants.

6. Prices may vary

Recreational marijuana is subject to certain taxes, which means prices will be more expensive than medical cannabis, The Phoenix reported. Products with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level of 35 percent or less, such as the kind used to smoke, are taxed at ten percent. THC is the active ingredient of marijuana. Cannabis-infused products, such as edibles, are taxed at 20 percent. Products with a THC content of greater than 35 percent are taxed at 25 percent, according to the IDFPR website. 

7. You can only possess a certain amount

Illinois residents can only have 30 grams of cannabis flower — the type of cannabis used for smoking — according to the IDFPR website. Residents can have five grams of cannabis concentrate, and 500 milligrams of cannabis-infused products. These limits are different for Illinois visitors, who can only have half of the amount of residents.

8. Be careful of weed in the workplace

Recreational marijuana is legal now, but some employers may have zero-tolerance drug use policies from before legalization. Under the Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace, consumption of legal substances outside of the workplace is allowed. But the new law legalizing cannabis also allows companies to fire employees for using marijuana on the job. 

Similar to other states with legal recreational cannabis, this is a gray area as marijuana remains in a user’s system for an extended period of time, according to a study published by the American Association of Clinical Chemistry. 

The Chicago City Council has yet to address this issue, Gardner said. Rogers Park residents with questions or concerns regarding recreational marijuana can contact Alderwoman Maria Hadden’s office at (773) 338-5796.

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