ILLINOIS/MISSOURI - Now that recreational cannabis use is legal in both Illinois and Missouri, there is some confusion about what all these laws cover. We’re answering one of the most pressing questions for whoever in your friend group calls shotgun this weekend: Can you smoke marijuana if you’re a passenger in a car?
Short answer, no. In fact, there are many laws when it comes to driving with marijuana. Keep reading to make sure you’re safe when transporting your pot.
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Illinois Vehicle Code outlines the rules about drugs and alcohol for legal users in a motor vehicle. It’s helpful to think about marijuana in the same league as alcohol. Just like you can be arrested for driving under the influence while over the legal alcohol limit of 0.8, you can be charged with a DUI if you’re high, too.
But the limit for cannabis consumption is much more strict. Illinois law says it’s illegal to drive if you’re under the influence of a drug “to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving.” Within two hours of driving, you can’t have any concentration of THC in your blood.
This doesn’t apply to people who are legal users of medical marijuana, as long as they’re still capable of safe driving. But driving while high carries the same consequences as driving while drunk, including incarceration, fines, community service hours or a revoked license.
Not to mention, of course, that it’s also dangerous and can cause bodily harm to you or another person. This is why even a passenger smoking in your car is not only illegal, but also dangerous. Secondhand marijuana smoke can impair the driver.
So no driving while high or smoking from the passenger seat, but what about transporting marijuana or ingesting it another way?
Whether you’re leaving the dispensary or heading to a party, the transportation of cannabis comes with some serious rules. Illinois law states that you cannot have an open container of alcohol in your car. Similarly, both recreational and medical marijuana must be stored “in a secured, sealed or resealable, odor-proof, child-resistant cannabis container that is inaccessible.”
This law applies to passengers and drivers alike. To break it is a Class A Misdemeanor, which comes with a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $2,500 fine. And it also means that other ways of ingesting THC, like eating or drinking it, are out of the question while in a vehicle.
Think of it this way: If you access your weed, a lawyer you’ll need. So ultimately, if you’re in a car in Illinois, your cannabis better be packed away in the trunk to be safe.
However, Missouri doesn’t have an open container law. The driver can’t drink while operating a car, of course, but passengers can possess open containers and even consume alcohol. Missouri is one of the only states to allow this, and some municipalities have different laws, so be aware.
Currently, there are no specific laws about the containers that must be used to transport cannabis in Missouri, though some lawmakers are trying to change that and adopt a version of Illinois’s law about child-proof, odor-free containers.
It’s worth noting that as of April 2023, the smell of cannabis alone no longer constitutes probable cause for a vehicle search during a traffic stop in Illinois or Missouri. But the rules vary on whether the smell provides reasonable suspicion to administer a DUI test.
How do all these rules apply when crossing state lines? A lot of people in the Riverbend spend time in Missouri and St. Louis on the weekends, and Missourians often come over to Alton and other favorite Illinois haunts. Recreational cannabis use is legal in both Illinois and Missouri now, but transporting cannabis across state lines is not. Whichever state you bought it in, you have to consume it in.
And on that note, remember that public use is still illegal in both states. To establish some basic guidelines, consider the Smoke Free Illinois Act; smoking tobacco is only allowed in private homes or designated public areas. For cannabis, this law applies with a slightly stricter addendum. You can smoke cannabis at a tobacco store or cannabis facility if they allow it, but not at a restaurant, bar or any other public place where others can observe you doing it. Public intoxication isn’t a crime in Illinois, but it is in Missouri, so pace yourself.
While these are the general laws on public cannabis use and transporting cannabis in Illinois, check with your own organizations before you light up. Many workplaces will fire you if you use marijuana at all, and some college campuses have banned cannabis completely. These rules and consequences are different from state law, so just make sure you know what you can and can’t do.
And if all these laws and rules are followed, then congrats — feel free to kick back and enjoy the weekend. Just remember to stay safe!
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