The New Year brings with it a new state to legalize cannabis. Illinois marijuana dispensaries opened for the first time to adult-use customers on New Year’s Day. The cold weather and icy conditions didn’t deter hundreds, if not thousands, of cannabis consumers from waiting in line to purchase legal marijuana. Legalization in Illinois was passed through legislation for the first time ever, setting a precedent for future states to do the same.
Any Illinois resident over the age of 21 can legally buy and possess up to 30 grams of dried flower, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate, and up to 500 mg of THC edibles. Tourists and out-of-state consumers will only be able to carry half of that, but will still be allowed to purchase at licensed Illinois marijuana dispensaries. Cannabis consumption will be permitted at on-site lounges in dispensaries and smoke shops, as well as private residences.
Jack Ryan who spent $120 on some buds, joints and edibles at Sunnyside dispensary remarked that, “It makes things easier. It’s always in the back of your mind, you’re going to get busted. Now it’s less of a big deal.” The first day of legal cannabis in Illinois generated a record breaking $3.2 million in sales.
Illinois is the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana, and is taking a slow steady approach to growing the cannabis industry in the state. So far only 40 recreational retailers have been licensed, all were formerly medical marijuana dispensaries. These will be some of the only dispensaries selling to consumers for the first few quarters of 2020.
Governor Pritzker said the slow start will save space in the industry for social equity applicants. He pointed out that, “Every state that has legalized cannabis has seen high demand and long lines in its earliest weeks, and to be sure, our state will too. But unlike other states, in Illinois, we purposely built a system where the market has room to grow, so that entrepreneurs, including especially those from the communities devastated by the war on drugs, will have real opportunities in this industry.”
The Majority-Minority Group has been helping 38 minority-led teams navigate the confusing and expensive cannabis licensing process for social equity applicants. Around three dozen minority marijuana dispensary applicants arrived at the Thompson Center to submit their paperwork this morning. The first 75 applicants to submit the best plan for engaging their community will be granted licenses. In 2021 the state plans to bring on 110 more licenses taking geographic distribution into consideration.
Yesterday was the deadline for Illinois marijuana dispensaries to submit their business license applications to the state for review. Regulators have indicated that there will be a second round of licenses issued in late April or early May.
Dispensary applicants will be scored using a point-based system that covers 10 considerations: labor, diversity and environmental plans, security, business plans, experience, employee training, and the owners’ status as a veteran, an Illinois resident, or a social equity applicant.
Long lines at Illinois marijuana dispensaries offer a glimpse of the huge potential that cannabis sales will have around the state. In Chicago alone, cannabis tax revenue is expected to reach $3.5 million by the end of 2020.