The winds of change are blowing in the Windy City, and that will soon mean less stress for travelers who smoke pot at Chicago airports.
Illinois is poised to become the latest state to lift its ban on recreational marijuana use. And when the new law comes into effect on New Year’s Day, domestic travelers passing through Chicago airports like O’Hare and Midway will not be stopped if they are caught with some cannabis in their carry-on luggage.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Transportation Security Administration officials said last week that they were deferring to local police on the issue.
“Our officers don’t look for cannabis when they go through their usual security check. But if they find any, we will contact the Chicago Police Department to make a final decision on the disposition,” said TSA Deputy Director of Federal Security Louis Traverz, quoted in the Sun-Times.
The State of Cannabis in Illinois
Illinois legislators passed a bill earlier this year that legalizes the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 years of age and older. The legislation was signed into law in June by the J.B. Pritzker government.
The law will allow adults in Illinois to purchase pot from local clinics and possess up to 30 grams of cannabis flower, 500 mg of THC in a cannabis-infused product and 5 grams of cannabis concentrate. Visitors to the state will be allowed to possess half of these amounts.
Despite this, Chicago police still advise travelers to leave the bud at home.
“To ensure the safety of all travelers, we encourage all travelers not to bring cannabis into Chicago airports as it remains illegal under federal law,” said Chicago Police Commander William Mullane, quoted by the Sun-Times.
But Mullane said that if those travelers are “within our current law, as of January 1, we can’t enforce it.”
“If they’re legal, they’re legal,” Mullane said.
The law will also be important for former marijuana offenders in Illinois. While also making pot legal for adults, the measure will wipe out the records of 800,000 state residents who were previously convicted of non-violent, minor cannabis possession.
Earlier this month, Kim Foxx, the state attorney for Cook County, Illinois (where Chicago is the county seat), filed the first motion for the erasure of just over 1,000 low-level, nonviolent convictions for possession of less than an ounce of pot.
“As a prosecutor who has already prosecuted these cases, we must take responsibility for the harm we have caused, particularly to communities of color, and we must actively work to play our part in repairing that harm,” said Foxx.