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Growing your own marijuana in Illinois is a serious crime

Marijuana has gone mainstream. Movies and television shows now regularly feature people smoking, talking about or even growing the notorious plant. More states legalize marijuana for medical purposes or recreational adult use every year. However, despite a medical marijuana program, Illinois has not legalized marijuana.

Yes, Illinois has decriminalized first-time offenses involving low-level possession. That does not mean that those who sell or grow marijuana don't risk criminal charges and jail time. Understanding state law can be the first step to protecting yourself from criminal consequences.

You can't grow your own medical marijuana

You may think that you can grow a little bit of marijuana in your own home thanks to the state medical marijuana law. If you have one of the qualifying conditions in Illinois and are properly registered, your possession and consumption of cannabis may no longer be a state crime. Your doctor doesn't even need to directly recommend marijuana. He or she only has to attest to the fact that you have a real, ongoing doctor-patient relationship and a verifiable diagnosis with a qualifying condition.

Registered patients in Illinois can posses up to two and a half ounces every fourteen days. Patients can buy this marijuana from state licensed dispensaries. While the law does create a caregiver program, those caregivers can only purchase and transport marijuana for one patient. They cannot grow it on behalf of a patient.

Similarly, a medical marijuana patient cannot legally grow his or her own marijuana. The law does not allow for home cultivation. Even qualifying patients can face prosecution if they get caught growing marijuana.

The penalties for cultivation can be very steep

For those who get caught growing marijuana, the charges and penalties they face will change depending on the number of plants they grow. For those caught with five or fewer plants, the cultivation is a misdemeanor offense that carries up to a year in jail and a fine of as much as $2,500.

For those accused of having gardens containing between six and 20 plants, the charges increase to felony charges. The penalty for conviction includes a mandatory minimum of one year in jail, but as many as six. The fine also increases to $25,000. Those with between 21 and 50 plants will pay the same fine, but the sentence increases to a mandatory minimum of two years and up to 10 years.

Gardens containing between 51 and 200 plants could result in between three and 14 years in jail, as well as a fine of up to $100,000. For those accused of growing more than 200 plants, the felony charges carry between four and 30 years in jail, as well as a $100,000 fine. Those accused of growing any number of marijuana plants should carefully consider their defense options before moving forward.

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