Q & A with Rock Island County States Attorney about recreational marijuana

ROCK ISLAND, ILLINOIS  -- Thirty-five medical marijuana dispensaries across Illinois have been approved to also sell recreational marijuana.

Come Jan. 1, 2020 Illinois will become the 11th state to allow legal pot sales. New's Eight's Lauren Jackson sat down with Rock Island County States Attorney, Dora Villarreal, to break down the new law.

"The rules are new," Villarreal said. "They are not all completely 100% worked out yet. We are not looking to nickle and dime small amounts of marijuana, but we are asking the public to be respectful of this new law."

Who can purchase recreational marijuana?

"It is only going to be legal for those 21 and over," Villarreal said.

You must also have a state issued I.D.

How much can be purchased?

"From a licensed dispensary, it's up to 30 grams for Illinois residents. It is up to 15 grams for non- residents," Villarreal said.

Can you travel into Iowa with marijuana?

"They cannot cross the bridges over into Iowa with marijuana," Villarreal said.

What does the law say about transporting marijuana in Illinois?

"It has to be packaged in an odor proof sealed container," Villarreal said. "It can only be transported in something that contains the odor of cannabis. It will be sold that way from the dispensaries."

If pulled over, what probable cause do Police need to search a vehicle?

"The smell of burnt marijuana is sufficient to search the vehicle," Villarreal said.

"A police officer can smell marijuana, burnt marijuana, then that is still probable cause to search your vehicle. You are not supposed to have the smell of marijuana because it is supposed to be in an odorless container."

What if the smell lingers on the driver from earlier?

"What is smelled by police officers when they preform traffic stops is usually something that is much more recent, a stronger smell that can be smelled outside the car," Villarreal said. "The thought is that if you are at home and then later on you get in the car, that smell would be gone."

Can you smoke marijuana in public?

"It can not be smoked in public view," Villarreal said.

Does outside your home count as public view?

"Anything that anyone can basically see, so it could actually be construed as your backyard, even though it is fenced in, if someone can peak over and see you smoking marijuana, then it is considered in public view."

Can employers still drug test? 

"Yes," Villarreal said.

"Employers can prohibit you from smoking and can continue to drug test you in certain situations. Unless the federal level decides to change the laws on marijuana, then you are always going to have employers that are bound by federal law. it can be a private company or a company that has some sort of federal compliance."

Will "smoking lounges" be in Rock Island County?

"As of now, it is not legal. The state needs to allow that within the law, so the city can start issuing those permits."

Can you purchase marijuana from a dispensary if you have a concealed carry license? 

"If you are caught with drugs, and it appears you are selling drugs, and you have a weapon with you, we can charge you with armed violence," Villarreal said.

"If it appears that you have a weapon in conjunction with the sale of drugs. that is considered armed violence. Just saying that you have a concealed carry permit, you have a gun, and then you are in possession of your legal amount of marijuana in your sealed container, that is absolutely not a crime and that's not sufficient to charge a crime."

Can you grow your own plants?

"Only medical patients. It would depend on each case, but most of them where there is grow, usually are charged as possession with intent to deliver."

When will the automatic expungement process begin for Rock Island County?

"The end of February," Villarreal said.

"The ones that are eligible for expungement are possession of marijuana up to 30 grams, which is what has become legal. "I think the most important thing that we have been told to review is make sure there is no violent offenses that are listed along with it. We basically check to see what other crimes, if any, are along with that conviction and we can put an objection if necessary."

Will people charged with possession of more than 30 grams have their record be lowered to just 30 grams?

"Possession from 30 grams to 500 grams can petition to have their conviction expunged, so that will not be automatic, but you can still petition the court."

Villarreal said each situation will be taken by a case by case basis. She said she expects to see amendments to the law within the first year.

"There's reasons, both pros and cons for this, but I think in the end it's just going to take a little time and it will work out."

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