Keeping our Teens Drug and Alcohol Free

Highland Park Closes Legal Loophole to Protect Youth from Cannabis

By Barbara de Nekker, CTAD Executive Director

When Illinois legalized the sale of retail marijuana, they included a lot of restrictions on advertising, packaging, production and security. Marijuana dispensaries have frosted windows and only people over 21 years old may enter. Then how is it that that cannabis is sold at gas stations, bakeries and health food stores where kids can go? Why do we see ads for THC-infused sweets with cartoons and online ads for “legal” mail-order THC edibles?

The answer is hemp. Hemp and marijuana are both forms of cannabis, and both contain the psychoactive component THC which makes people feel high. Because hemp only contains trace amounts, though, Illinois cannabis regulation only covers marijuana. Taking advantage of this loophole, the cannabis industry uses components of the hemp plant to create synthetic THC that falls outside the law. (See definitions below.)

After months of public input, discussion and legal review, Highland Park City Council voted to ban sales and minor possession of these synthetic THC products in Highland Park. By doing so, Highland Park is protecting our youth from many of the factors proven to increase the risk of youth using THC. It reduces their exposure to cannabis advertising, makes it more difficult for them to get it, increases their perception of harm, and sends a clear message that adults in the community think youth should stay drug-free. Highland Park joins just a handful of other Illinois communities who have voted for this ban: Barrington, Antioch, Wheeling and Elk Grove Village.

Marijuana Terms Explained

  • THC – The psychoactive component of the cannabis plant. Every major medical organization agrees it is addictive, particularly for youth whose brains are still developing.
  • Marijuana – A type of cannabis plant with high amounts of THC. Products containing marijuana are regulated by Illinois law and may only be sold by licensed dispensaries.
  • Hemp – Type of cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3% THC. It is not regulated by Illinois law.
  • Delta 8, Delta 10, THC-O – Forms of THC that are synthetically derived from the hemp plant using a solvent, acid and heat. They are psychoactive and addictive. Because it is not covered by Illinois law, there are no restrictions on advertising, packaging or minimum sales age. Delta 8 has not been approved by the FDA for safe use and is banned in 17 states.
  • Delta 9 – Form of THC found predominantly in the marijuana plant and therefore falls under Illinois cannabis regulations. This is sold at licensed marijuana dispensaries. There are some forms of Delta 9 that are synthetically derived and therefore are not covered by the law.
  • CBD – Non-intoxicating component of cannabis with low potential for abuse. The FDA has approved one product with CBD which is available by prescription. It is currently illegal to market CBD in food products or dietary supplements.

For more definitions of marijuana terms, see How are Marijuana, Cannabis and Hemp Different? and Glossary of Marijuana & Vaping Terms.