By Attorney Angie Reed
Many Illinoisans celebrated in 2020 when marijuana became legal for recreational use for adults over the age of 21. With legalization came a new crop of dispensaries and an ability to buy a once-illicit product over the counter like any other purchase. Although it's easy enough to go out and buy legal marijuana with few obstacles for the average consumer, there are rules about how to drive with your purchase once it's in-hand.
Illinois is serious about how drivers (and passengers!) can move marijuana. The substance itself is legal for recreational use but, like alcohol, has rules surrounding how you can transport it. Most people understand that you can get a DUI in Illinois for being under the influence of marijuana while driving, but simply storing marijuana in the wrong container or having it within reaching distance while in a car can result in an arrest and criminal charge.
The Illinois statute relating to marijuana possession in a motor vehicle requires that any driver or passenger may not possess marijuana in a motor vehicle unless it is “in a secured, sealed or resealable, odor-proof, child-resistant cannabis container that is inaccessible.” Running afoul of this statute isn't just a petty traffic ticket, it is a Class A Misdemeanor.
So far in Illinois, the court still considers the smell of fresh or burned cannabis to be probable cause to search a vehicle during a traffic stop. The statute is written so that (theoretically) if the marijuana is stored the way it is supposed to be and is in an odor-proof container, police would not smell it and have reason to search a vehicle. Unsurprisingly, police frequently smell fresh cannabis in cars and find probable cause to search a vehicle. If one criterion from the statute is missing in the way you are transporting a marijuana purchase – for instance, it's in an odor-proof container, but is within reach on the passenger seat – the police can arrest you.
It's imperative that recreational marijuana users understand the requirements on how to transport their products. A criminal charge is serious and requires a skilled attorney to navigate the Illinois court system. If you are facing a marijuana-related criminal charge, reach out to CTM as soon as possible.