Cannabis dispensaries in Illinois started the New Year off with a bang: ringing up more than 271,000 sales valued at over $10.8 million for the first 5 days of legal recreational cannabis sales in the state, according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
“The successful launch of this new industry is a historic development for our state that will benefit the very communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the failed war on drugs” said Toi Hutchinson, Senior Advisor to the Governor for Cannabis Control.
Only a handful of dispensaries were open for business in Illinois on the first day of cannabis legalization, January 1. According to published reports, customers began queuing early, lines remained long, and in some cases dispensaries ran out of cannabis products and had to turn away recreational cannabis customers. Illinois law requires dispensary operators to always have enough cannabis products on hand to serve medical marijuana users.
Illinois became the 9th state to legalize the sale of cannabis for adult recreational use. Vermont and the District of Columbia have legalized possession of cannabis, but not the sale of cannabis products. Illinois had authorized medical cannabis sales in 2013, and in 2018 it decriminalized possession of marijuana.
The Illinois law that took effect on January 1 is sweeping and includes criminal justice reforms, such as the expungement of criminal records of those convicted of marijuana possession under previous state laws. It also includes provisions earmarking 25% of cannabis sales tax revenues for investments in communities that have been economically impacted by the war on drugs. And the state has set up a dispensary application process that encourages participation by economically disadvantaged groups.
The dispensary application process in Illinois provides several avenues for “social equity applications” that Hutchinson described as “unique” among state authorizing cannabis sales. These include favorable application scoring for qualifying social equity applicants, reduced application fees and a low-cost loans to help with start-up costs funded in part by existing dispensaries.
“Unlike any state in the nation, Illinois has set the standard for what it means to legalize cannabis in a way that begins to right the wrongs of the past and gives new opportunity to those that have been left behind for too long,” Hutchinson asserted.
As of January 2, the state had received more than 700 applications for new dispensary licenses. The state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is expected to award up to 75 new dispensary licenses by May 1.