Illinois Cannabis Market Launch Brings Happy New Year

Illinois’ adult-use cannabis market launches today, January 1, 2020. It is the first state-legal cannabis market resulting from action by lawmakers, not the voters.

Full story after the jump.

On January 1, 2020, adult-use cannabis is officially available for purchase in Illinois. Starting today, Illinois residents 21 and over can legally purchase and carry up to 30 grams of dried flower, 5 grams of concentrates, and up to 500 mg of THC in edible form. Non-residents and tourists will be able to legally carry half those amounts. Cannabis consumption is legal in residences with landlord permission and on-site consumption lounges at dispensaries and smoke shops.

HB0902, also legalizes and regulates “cannabis establishments” and “cannabis product manufacturing facilities” across The Prairie State. The bill also includes provisions to legalize the cultivation, handling, and sale of cannabis and cannabis-derived products by licensed cultivators, testing labs, and retailers. The industry will be managed and regulated by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

The landmark legalization bill was the first to be instituted by a state government — every other state that has established a legal cannabis market has done so through a citizen-led ballot initiative. However, issues have nonetheless risen to plague the state as it attempts to set up an infrastructure for what is projected to be a $2 billion industry.

Three years ago, the state voted to decriminalize the plant, which has led to a steep drop in arrests in the Chicago suburbs. This correction is set to continue throughout the year, starting December 31, 2019 when Governor Pritzker pardoned 11,017 cannabis misdemeanors across 92 counties. There are other criminal reform elements to the bill that also include social equity applicant programs which will help applicants from areas that were disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs get involved in the industry.

However, many believe that state-licensed dispensaries won’t be able to support the multi-billion dollar industry. For example, only the state’s current medical dispensaries will be online for market launch, but Gov. Pritzker said the slow start will save space in the industry for social equity applicants.

“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.” — Gov. J.B. Pritzker, in a speech celebrating the mass pardoning

The 55 medical dispensaries in operation were the first offered the ability to become state-licensed for recreational sales; so far, just under 40 have completed the process. These will be the dispensaries supporting the first few quarters of recreational sales in the state. License applications for recreational cannabis dispensaries were distributed in the fall; these are due by January 2, 2020, with new stores potentially open for sale by May 2020.

Applicants will be judged by a point system based on 10 factors: 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. The first 75 applicants with plans that best engage the community will be granted licenses. In 2021 the state plans to bring on 110 more licenses taking geographic distribution into consideration.

Until then, the projections against the current supply show that the state is likely to run out of product during the first few weeks or months of legalization. In response, the 18-21 licensed cultivators are working on expanding capacity into what all are hoping will be a happy New Year.


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