Cannabis Dispensary

Thousands of people started lining up outside Illinois’ 37 dispensaries in the early hours of Jan. 1 to take advantage of the state’s newly legal recreational cannabis market. By the end of the day, those businesses had sold more than $3 million in cannabis and cannabis products to more than 70,000 customers, according to estimates from the governor’s office.

Last year, Illinois become the first state in the nation to legalize adult-use cannabis via a state law, joining the 10 other states that have legalized recreational sales. It also is the second state in the Midwest and the only among its immediate neighbors that allows sales, which could help draw in tourists.

State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), the Senate sponsor of the measure, reflected that legalizing adult use via law rather than referendum has allowed Illinois to craft the fairest recreational cannabis rules in the country.

“We’re the first state to do so legislatively, which I think has allowed us to be more thoughtful about the way we approach it,” Steans said. “For folks that don’t use [cannabis], there’s probably some trepidation… I think they’ll see the sky doesn’t fall down, by and large.”

Steans went on to emphasize the safety and social equity components of the new law, which acknowledges the many negative effects the War on Drugs has had on individual people’s lives, especially in black and Latino neighborhoods. The law called for erasing the criminal records of people convicted of minor cannabis-related offenses, and the governor announced more than 11,000 expungements on New Year’s Eve.

The law goes further than expungement, though. It also grants preference to dispensary applicants who live in communities disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs or who have been convicted of an expungable offense.

In related news, the Illinois agency that licenses recreational cannabis dispensaries recently announced another round of applicants have been awarded licenses, which should decrease wait and travel times for individuals who want to purchase cannabis legally.