Burning Questions Chicago Apartment Renters May Have About the Illinois Marijuana Law

Apartment renters in Chicago may have a few burning questions about the law and its application to the consumption of legal marijuana on rental properties. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a bill that legalizes cannabis for adult recreational use that went into effect for Illinois residents over the age of 21 on January 1, 2020. Here are some of the top questions that Domu has thus far heard about the law for Chicago apartment renters and landlords who are wondering about 420-friendly apartments.

Can landlords say 'No' to recreational marijuana in my apartment?

Yes, landlords can prohibit cannabis consumption on rental property in Chicago. Nothing in the Illinois recreational marijuana law says that landlords must allow tenants or visitors to use cannabis on or in their property. Setting up rentals as 420-friendly apartments is totally at the discretion of the landlord or owner, in other words. Because one of the most common ways of consuming cannabis is by smoking it, landlords who’ve already implemented a smoking ban for their apartments may consider following the same guidelines for smoking marijuana in the apartment.

What about apartment renters in public housing?

Illinois has decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis. But possession of marijuana remains a federal crime. Renters at Chicago Housing Authority properties or those receiving housing assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher program, also known as Section 8, still aren’t allowed to use cannabis in their apartments – at the risk of getting evicted from their subsidized housing – according to guidance sent out from the CHA in late 2019. The CHA, at the request of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, revisited this hard-line stance on cannabis prohibition and enforcement. The updated policy pledges to consider “relevant facts on a case-by-case basis and mitigating circumstances.” Additionally, The CHA put out a notice to all Housing Choice Voucher property owners in early 2020 stating that they "understand the need to apply the new law requirements equitably" to tenants.
Does this mean tenants can use, grow or distribute cannabis in federally subsidized housing without fearing consequences, including eviction? Not quite, mainly because the Illinois law does not allow non-licensed individuals to grow marijuana or distribute it. But it’s a significant progression in the unfolding saga around cannabis consumption in Chicago apartments.

Can my landlord say 'No' to using medical cannabis in my apartment?

The answer is no, but there are caveats. A little background: Medicinal cannabis was legalized in Illinois in 2014. The new legislation that went into effect in 2020 didn't change the existing program for medical cannabis. That said, non-smoking areas can be enforced in an apartment building, including apartment interiors, so that might limit the forms of consumption of medical marijuana in Chicago apartments. However, other ways of consuming medical cannabis don't involve smoking, such as ingestible or tinctures. Those cannot be prohibited in apartments if the tenant holds a valid prescription. Tenants should consult their apartment lease and double-check with landlords about the smoking policy for their unit and the building.

Can I grow marijuana in my Chicago apartment?

Probably not. Only patients who are part of the state's medicinal cannabis program can cultivate plants at home, and there are limitations even for them. Anyone who doesn't have a prescription for medicinal use will need a license issued by the state of Illinois if they want to try their hand at growing. And since cultivating cannabis plants on a larger scale constitutes running a business that runs afoul of most common rental agreements (including the terms of Domu's model apartment lease) prohibiting renters from using their Chicago apartments for commercial purposes. Many apartments in the city won't have the room for anything more than personal plant cultivation. Not to mention the space and utility costs involved in cultivating cannabis plants for commercial use.

As a landlord, will I get in trouble if my tenants use cannabis in the apartment?

Tenants should check with their landlords if smoking marijuana or using cannabis is allowed in rental apartments. No landlord may be penalized or denied any benefit under state law for leasing to a person who uses cannabis under the new law. But landlords can choose whether or not to permit recreational cannabis use on their properties. 

These are only a few of the questions that Domu has heard from apartment renters and landlords in Chicago. The bill that legalized recreational cannabis in Illinois is a 600-page document, and there are far more granular details within it. And it's safe to assume that more questions and deliberations will surface as the public adapts to legal recreational cannabis in Illinois. Stay informed by subscribing to Domu's Chicago apartment newsletter for all the latest news. Check back regularly in Domu's apartment resources pages for comprehensive guides to renting apartments in Chicago.

The general information that Domu provides about Chicago landlord-tenant law is not intended as legal advice. Domu endeavors to provide accurate information, but the law is subject to change, and Domu is not a law firm or provider of legal services. Questions about your particular leasing situation should be directed to a lawyer.