What Parents Need to Know Regarding the Legalization of Cannabis in Illinois


As of January 1, 2020, cannabis will be classified as a Schedule 1 Substance making it illegal by federal standards and legal for those 21 years of age and older in Illinois. This discrepancy is not only confusing from a public health standpoint, it makes understanding the law more complicated.

As a parent, you might be asking:

Is it safe or not?

If you are asking for yourself, there is a lot of conflicting research out there regarding the consequences seen with use in those over 21. The varying forms of cannabis coupled with the increased levels of THC make it all the more important for you to educate yourself on the potential concerns. This will not only help keep you safe but it will model responsible practice. If you are asking for your child, the science clearly indicates it is not safe for those with a brain under construction, especially for those under the age of 18. For information regarding these concerns, you are encouraged to read through the Adolescent Brain Development and Marijuana Talking Points pages of the BN Parents website.

What are the laws regarding cannabis use?

Despite a few differences, the new cannabis laws mirror many of the laws Illinois has in place for alcohol. The ones you and your teen should be most aware of are:

Social Host Law

It is against the law for a parent to knowingly provide alcohol and/or cannabis or a space where underage alcohol or cannabis consumption takes place. The space could be your house, property you own, a hotel room you rent, a boat or anything else you own or rent. Here is what you need to know: 

  • If you allow or host a party at your house and provide alcohol or cannabis to people under age 21 (or if you know or should have known that they are drinking alcohol or using cannabis), you are guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. This will result in a fine. Note that you are held responsible regardless if you are the one who provides the alcohol or cannabis AND regardless if you are home or not.
  • If a minor who was drinking or using any form of cannabis at your house injures or kills someone, you are guilty of a Class 4 felony. This could result in both a fine and/or jail time.
  • You will not be guilty of violating the law if you request help from the police to help remove the underage drinkers or cannabis users and stop the gathering. This only holds if you are the first one to call. It does not work if the police show up after a complaint from a neighbor and then you ask for help.

 Zero Tolerance

In Illinois, there is a zero tolerance policy for those under the age of 21. This means that an individual under the age of 21 cannot drive with any amount of alcohol or cannabis in their system. Doing so can result in the below consequences:

  • 1st Offense: Three-month suspension of driving privileges; six-month suspension with refusal of alcohol testing.
  • 2nd Offense (before age 21): One-year suspension of driver’s license; two-year suspension with refusal of testing.

Laws to discourage the use of Fake IDs

Unfortunately, internet availability has increased the number of teens using fake ID’s. Here is what they need to know:

It is illegal to assist in obtaining or to fraudulently obtain, distribute, use, or possess a fraudulent state ID card/driver’s license. Your driving privileges can be suspended for up to one year or revoked for a minimum of one year.

You can be convicted of a CLASS A MISDEMEANOR punishable by up to one year in jail and fines up to $2,500 FOR ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

  • Lending a license or state ID to a friend or knowingly allowing someone (such as a younger sibling) to use it.
  • Displaying or representing as one’s own any driver’s license or ID card issued to another person.
  • Possessing a fictitious driver’s license or identification card (“fictitious” means a license containing untrue information produced by the Illinois Secretary of State or another state/federal government office).
  • Possessing, transferring or providing any identification document, whether real or fictitious, for the purpose of obtaining a fictitious ID card or driver’s license.
  • Altering or attempting to alter a driver’s license or state ID.
  • Any subsequent conviction of above is a Class 4 felony.

You can be convicted of a CLASS 4 FELONY punishable by one to three years imprisonment and fines up to $25,000 FOR ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

  • Possessing a fraudulent Illinois driver’s license or ID card (“fraudulent” means a license or ID card produced by someone other than a government office).
  • Possessing security equipment to reproduce a government issued identification card or driver’s license.
  • Advertising, distributing, manufacturing, or selling a fraudulent driver’s license.
  • Any subsequent conviction of the aforementioned is a Class 3 felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and fines of up to $25,000.

Facilitating the Use of Cannabis or Alcohol

  • It is unlawful for any person to facilitate the use of cannabis or alcohol by a person who is under the age of 21. Your teen can be charged similarly to parents under the Social Host Laws listed above. In the past, we have had 19 year olds from our community sentenced to seven years because the alcohol they provided resulted in the death of others.

It is important to note that Illinois law holds across the state unless the efforts of an organization are directed by the federal government or receive federal funding. In these instances, cannabis use is still illegal for all ages. As a parent, if you have a student that attends college, cannabis use will most likely continue to be illegal because of the federal funding institutions receive.