The winds of change are afoot in the Windy City, and that will soon mean less stress for pot smoking travelers to Chicago’s airports.
Illinois is set to become the latest state to lift prohibition on recreational marijuana use. And when the new law takes effect on New Year’s Day, domestic travelers passing through Chicago airports like O’Hare and Midway won’t be arrested if they’re caught with a little cannabis in their carry-on.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Transportation Security Administration officials said last week that they will defer to local police on the matter.
“Our officers are not looking for cannabis as they go through their normal security [check]. But should they come across it, we are going to contact the Chicago Police Department to make a final determination on the disposition,” TSA deputy federal security director Louis Traverz said, as quoted by the Sun-Times.
The State of Cannabis in the State of Illinois
Illinois lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year legalizing recreational use of marijuana for adults aged 21 and older. The measure was signed into law in June by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
The law will permit Illinois adults to buy weed at local dispensaries, and to 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 able to possess half those amounts.
Despite that, Chicago police are still advising travelers to leave the bud at home.
“To ensure safe travel for all travelers, we’re encouraging all travelers not to bring cannabis through Chicago airports as it remains illegal under federal law,” Chicago police commander William Mullane said, as quoted by the Sun-Times.
But Mullane said that if those travelers are ““within the guidelines of our current statute, starting Jan. 1, we can’t enforce anything.”
“If they’re legal, they’re legal,” Mullane said.
The law will also be significant for previous marijuana offenders in Illinois. While also making weed legal for adults, the measure will expunge the records of 800,000 residents in the state who were previously convicted of petty, non-violent cannabis possession.
Earlier this month, Kim Foxx, the state’s attorney for Cook County, Illinois (where Chicago is the county seat), filed the first motion for the expungement of a little more than 1,000 low-level and non-violent convictions for possession of less than an ounce of pot.
“As a prosecutor who has previously prosecuted these cases, we must own our role in the harm we have caused, particularly to communities of color and we must actively work to play our part in reversing those harms,” Foxx said.