"If you're currently planning a sweet-ass cannabis-themed dinner party, you should know that under the current law you're taking a risk." Credit: Photo by Mohau Mannathoko on Unsplash

Welcome to the Reader’s cannabis column, To Be Blunt. We’re here to answer your canna questions with the help of budtenders, attorneys, medical practitioners, chefs, researchers, legislators, and patient care advocates. Send your cannabis queries to tobeblunt@chicagoreader.com.

Q: I love inviting friends over to enjoy my multicourse cannabis-infused meals. When can I talk openly about my spiked diners without risking a fine?

A: Dear Reader reader,

We’ve asked Thomas Howard, a lawyer who advises on cannabis laws, to weigh in. His response, which has been edited for length and clarity, is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.

“Pop-up cannabis supper clubs have existed in the Chicago area for years! Supper clubs’ origin as underground Prohibition roadhouses fits perfectly with still-illicit cannabis. Illinois’s new adult-use laws do not take effect until January 1, 2020. If you’re currently planning a sweet-ass cannabis-themed dinner party, you should know that under the current law you’re taking a risk.

“While I won’t try to stop you from hosting a cannabis supper club, I will advise you of the law so you can make up your own mind about how to proceed.

“Food infused with cannabis has its own license under the new Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act in Illinois. Unfortunately, the applications for the infuser license won’t even be released until early next year. Moreover, cannabis-infused products will need to be sold from an infuser to a dispensary organization; only then could the premade infused cannabis products be sold to a retail purchaser. In short, the law doesn’t speak directly to cannabis supper clubs.

“So in order to stay within the law, you need to be careful about restricting your guest list, how much cannabis you’re using in your cooking, and how your guests are getting home.

“First, cannabis in small amounts is already decriminalized in Illinois. Possession of ten grams or less of marijuana is only a civil violation, not a crime, and it carries a fine of $200. Ten grams is about three-eighths of an ounce of marijuana, which is a lot to cook with or to convert into a cannabutter extract.

“In the new year, when the new laws go into effect, you will be able to possess up to one ounce (a little more than 28 grams) of cannabis legally. Depending on the size of your party, that much cannabis consumed edibly after decarbing it through cooking would get you and all your guests pretty high—maybe even high enough to fall asleep. Assuming the cannabis has a THC content of 20 percent, that ounce of marijuana contains about six grams of THC.

“For reference, edibles available in medical dispensaries are often dosed in ten-milligram increments. So that ounce of legal cannabis contains approximately 600 “doses” of edibles. Six hundred servings is a lot to serve at one dinner party!

“What if your invite-only and free cannabis supper-club party is a huge—pardon the obvious pun—hit? Say you come down from your high and realize that this is your calling and want to go commercial: Do the same rules apply? Absolutely not. Selling or trafficking in cannabis is always a crime—unless you have the appropriate licensing from the state. Possession is currently decriminalized and will soon be legalized, but commerce in the product is a different issue altogether.

“Perhaps in the future such supper clubs could become a legitimate business, but an amendment to the yet-to-be-enacted law would be required. What the new Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act will enable are cannabis dinner parties for the best guests—your friends. Assuming you wait to have your party until next year, stay under the one-ounce possession limitation, and do not charge for the cannabis-infused food, your event should be a good, and perfectly legal, time. Please watch out for your guests, however, because they may have trouble getting home from your party if they eat too much. Fortunately, ride-sharing apps became commonplace before cannabis dinner parties became the new trend. If you’d like to invite me (I trend vegan), my information is below.”   v

Thomas Howard is a lawyer who has been advising on cannabis laws since 2010; he practiced as a bank attorney while the industry in the state matured. Thomas launched a cannabis practice in 2018 to help serve clients dealing with all facets of the plant, from hemp to marijuana. When not working for cannabis companies, he speaks about the industry regularly on his website cannabisindustrylawyer.com and on his podcast, streamed live on YouTube at youtube.com/cannabislegalizationnews and on iTunes at podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/cannabis-legalization-news/id1453799095.