The Kentuckian’s Guide to Marijuana Legalization in Illinois: Where to Buy and More

Chicago News USA

Legal marijuana isn’t just on the coasts anymore.

As of Jan. 1, Illinois became the first state bordering Kentucky to lift restrictions on recreational adult use of cannabis, six years after it legalized medical marijuana.

The Bluegrass State still has not passed its own brand of marijuana legalization, medical or otherwise (lawmakers will have a chance to do so with two prefiled bills this month), but now Kentucky residents over 21 can legally buy marijuana in Illinois.

So, where are the dispensaries? How much can you buy? And where can you use it?

Here is your guide to taking advantage of legal pot in Illinois.

Where you can buy it

Thirty-seven dispensaries have been granted licenses to sell recreational marijuana in Illinois. Most are in and around Chicago, but there are closer shops to Louisville, although many of them are in small towns.

The closest dispensary to Louisville is the Harbory dispensary near Marion, Illinois, a town of around 17,762 — located about three hours and 20 minutes away.

A drive just 17 minutes longer takes you to the Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area, home to a university, around 87,432 people and two dispensaries: NuMed and Sunnyside.

Another relatively close dispensary is Thrive in Anna, Illinois, about three hours and 40 minutes from Louisville but just one hour from Paducah, Kentucky (those lucky ducks).

And, you could always drive five or so hours to Chicago to make a vacation of it, where you’ll find 10 dispensaries in the city and 11 in surrounding cities and suburbs.

Other dispensaries within four hours of Louisville are The Clinic in Effingham, Illinois, (three hours, 41 minutes away) and HCI Alternatives in Collinsville (three hours, 49 minutes).

For this year, only existing medical marijuana dispensaries in Illinois are allowed to apply for recreational sales licenses, so more shops in cities closer to Louisville might open eventually. Municipalities do have the option to prohibit the establishment of dispensaries, and many have.

How much you can buy

Out-of-state visitors to Illinois are allowed to purchase up to 15 grams of cannabis flower, 2.5 grams of cannabis concentrate (such as oils, dab or kief) and 250 milligrams of THC within cannabis-infused products (including edibles and tinctures) — as long as they present a valid ID. 

But you might not even be able to buy that much — at least within the first few weeks, and possibly months, of legalization.

On its website, NuMed says it expects initial supply shortages of cannabis, especially of flower and concentrate. (Edibles and vapes are a better bet).

On Thrive’s Facebook page, the dispensary said that it sold out of all but two flowers on Jan. 1, and the News-Gazette in Champaign reported that the city’s Sunnyside dispensary is limiting flower purchases to 7 grams per customers for the first weeks of the new year. 

Dispensaries are legally obligated to prioritize customers with medical marijuana needs.

How much it costs

Like other states, Illinois is taxing its marijuana. The amount it’s demanding from sellers depends on how much THC is in their product.

Illinois has established a 10% excise tax for products with THC levels below 35%, a 20% tax for cannabis-infused products (such as edibles and tinctures) and a 25% tax for products with THC levels above 35%.

At the Sunnyside and NuMed dispensaries in Champaign and Urbana, prices range from around $18 for 1 gram of flower to $81 for a vape cart containing 500 milligrams of THC.


Illinois marijuana sales are expected to generate $57 million in revenue for the state from taxes and licensing fees.

Where you can use it

So, you’ve managed to score some of that precious, limited ganja and now want to light up? Well, you can’t do it in the dispensary parking lot — or any public place in the state of Illinois, actually.

That was a rule included in the bill that passed the Illinois legislature, which defines a public place as anywhere you “can reasonably be expected to be observed by others.”

Illinois municipalities do have the authority to designate special places for marijuana use, such as smoking lounges or in dispensaries, but neither Chicago nor the cities closest to Louisville have done so.

According to the Chicago Tribune, however, the city’s mayor and interim police superintendent announced in early December that adults would not get in trouble for consuming marijuana on their porches or in their backyards. The penalty for consuming marijuana elsewhere in the city is a $50 ticket for the first offense and $100 for the second.

But, unless you’re a Kentuckian who has the privilege of owning multiple properties in different states, you probably don’t have a stoop or deck to smoke on, and if you’re looking for a hotel to settle in with your spoils, you might be in trouble.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Hyatt Hotels, Hilton Hotels & Resorts and Marriott International all have no-marijuana policies, for their Chicago locations at least. Bud and Breakfast, a website where you can search for “cannabis friendly lodging,”  lists only a few options available in the state. 

In other places where marijuana has been legalized for longer, Airbnb descriptions often designate whether lodging is “420 friendly” or not.

With more widely-available forms of cannabis, though, its harder to tell when someone is consuming marijuana. Edibles, lotions and vapes — all legal in Illinois — don’t come with the inescapable, pungent odor associated with smoking pot.

Can you take it home?

The short answer is: no!

Marijuana is still not legal in Kentucky for anyone, and even if it were, the federal government still considers pot a Schedule 1 substance, making it illegal to transport across state lines.

Despite this, neither Illinois nor Kentucky State Police says they will be doing anything special to catch Kentuckians transporting legally bought drugs from Illinois across the border.

“I guess my question for you is: How are we going to be able to identify those people?” said Sgt. John Yard, coordinator for Illinois State Police’s cannabis control office. “We will have patrols out there identifying impaired driving, which would be the same for alcohol or anything else. I don’t know of any way we would be able to identify people who we suspect of transporting cannabis across the border.”

Yard said he is unaware of any coordination between Kentucky and Illinois state police. Trooper Robert Purdy, a public affairs officer with the Kentucky State Police said the same.

“I don’t see necessarily much change as far as the way we control and handle enforcement,” Purdy said.

Yard said, “I would basically encourage people to use or enjoy their cannabis within the spirit of the law and not break the law.”

How to drive with marijuana

Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal under Illinois law. Visitors are allowed to keep legally bought marijuana in their cars, but they are not allowed to consume it, even when the car is not in use, and their marijuana must be stashed away somewhere inaccessible and in a child-resistant, odor-proof container, traceable to where it came from, said Yard.

How to make sure your stuff “came from Illinois”

If you come across cannabis in Kentucky that supposedly came from Illinois, there are a few ways to check whether it’s legit.

Rules established when medical marijuana was legalized in Illinois say that legally produced pot must contain a label with: a unique serial number that matches the product to its batch, the date of final testing and packaging and the ID of an independent testing lab, the date of manufacture and use-by date, the quantity of cannabis contained, a pass/fail rating based on a lab’s microbiological, mycotoxins and pesticide and solvent resident analyses and a content list.

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