Cannabis Legalization: Spotlight on Illinois
On June 25, 2019, Illinois Governor J.B Pritzger signed a bill into law that would legalize recreational cannabis starting January 1, 2020. This made Illinois the 11th US state to allow recreational ("adult use") marijuana.
The initial rollout did not provide for any immediate new retail cannabis licenses. Rather, the existing medical marijuana dispensaries were permitted to start selling recreational cannabis as of the first of January. However, later in 2020, Illinois will grant additional permits to new stores, as well additional licenses throughout the supply chain for new processors, cultivators, and distributors. It is expected that there may be close to 300 stores in the state by 2022, however this will be impacted by the eventual actions and decisions of local municipalities.
As the calendar changed from 2019 to 2020, the first dispensaries opened their doors at 6 a.m. with crowds of customers and long lines. It has been reported that some consumers waited as long as 6 hours in the cold of winter to get into the stores to make history.
The licensing process is being overseen and directed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). Information about this department and the process can be found at this link.
Because the legalization did not coincide with additional production and retail outlets, the state faced significant supply shortages. Retailers reported that products were selling out as soon as they were put on the shelves. The state reported sales over $35M in both February and March of 2020. It is expected that throughout 2020, as more licenses are eventually granted, the supply will eventually start to catch up to the demand for cannabis in the state.
In addition to legalizing adult use sales, the new law allows for previous cannabis convictions to be referred to the Prisoner Review Board and the governor for potential pardon and expungement.
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