The start of the new year also marked the beginning of a new era in Illinois: the legalization of recreational cannabis.
Customers began lining up at some Illinois dispensary locations as early as 8 PM on New Year’s Eve, despite not seeing relief from Illinois’ bitter cold until the businesses opened at 6 AM New Year’s Day. More than 40 marijuana dispensaries around the state have been approved to sell recreational cannabis, and more are still working through the applications process. Ten of those licenses are concentrated in Chicago.
The Chicago Tribune reported nearly $3.2 million of legal cannabis was sold in Illinois just on the first day of the year – the day the new law kicked into effect.
One business has five recreational dispensaries in the state, along with strictly medical dispensaries. And the numbers for their very first day were truly impressive.
Cresco Labs, the group behind Sunnyside Dispensary, told Wikileaf, “the Company served 3,145 people on New Year’s Day at its five Sunnyside Dispensaries located in Lakeview, Elmwood Park, Champaign, Buffalo Grove and Rockford, Illinois. Sunnyside* also sold 9,258 cannabis products, including Cresco’s house of brands and items from other Illinois suppliers, with an average ticket price totaling $135.”
Under the new law, Illinois residents over the age of 21 will be allowed to buy and possess up to 30 grams of marijuana flowers and 5 grams of items with cannabis concentrate, along with edibles containing up to 500 milligrams of THC. If you’re visiting the state and not a resident, you can have half that amount with you. But, people are only allowed to consume marijuana in the privacy of their own homes; certain jurisdictions can also choose to allow on-site consumption at dispensaries, but that will vary by locality.
Charlie Bachtell, Cresco Labs CEO and Co-founder said in a statement, “With 13 million residents and 100 million annual tourists, Illinois is predicted to be one of the largest recreational cannabis markets in the United States.”
Business is already booming.
“We celebrated a truly inspiring, milestone of a day yesterday in Illinois!” Sunnyside Dispensary wrote on Facebook. “Our 5 Illinois locations opened their doors for the first time, welcoming in over 3,000 visitors for both medical and adult-use cannabis purchases. Thank you to everyone who visited us to celebrate not only our exciting opening day, but also to mark the end of cannabis prohibition in Illinois!”
Demand was so high that day, the dispensary had to close early. Sunnyside sent out an alert on Facebook, saying “Due to high demand, we are officially closing our recreational line today, and we will re-open tomorrow January 2nd at 9 AM”
Sunnyside also had to close Monday, January 6th, so its employees could recover. The dispensary sent a statement to The Stash Sunday, saying:
"After a busy week of serving over 10,000 customers, Sunnyside* will close its dual-purpose dispensaries (medical and adult use) for the day on Monday, January 6th to reset and give the staff that has worked five 14-hour days straight a break. The dispensaries still have product available in every category (flower, vape, concentrates, edibles, infused products) and will reopen on Tuesday, January 7th at 9AM. There are no product supply shortages – just a shortage of state-approved employees to help efficiently service the hundreds of people that have been showing up every day to make their first legal cannabis purchase in Illinois. The dispensaries that will be closed are Sunnyside* Lakeview, Elmwood Park, Rockford and Champaign. “
Some dispensaries, like Nature’s Care, are shifting from sales of medical marijuana to also include recreational sales. Dispensaries like those will still service their medical customers as a priority, making sure to have the necessary product on hand even if a product is running low for recreational sales.
There were also reports of people driving in from neighboring states, celebrating the New Year in Illinois instead, by legally purchasing marijuana. However, it should be noted, because recreational cannabis is not yet legal in some of those neighboring states, taking marijuana across the state lines is still against the law.
The new law should create plenty of tax revenue for Illinois, as the newly legal drug can become quite pricey quite quickly. For instance, Mission Dispensary in Chicago’s South Shore is selling an eighth of an ounce of certain marijuana plants for a wallet-busting $60.
The new law also allows for the clearing of criminal records for people convicted of non-violent cannabis-related crimes.
Governor JB Pritzker rang in the New Year by clear the criminal records of over 11,000 people who’d been convicted of cannabis-related crimes. That announcement was made the day before the law actually kicked into effect. The Governor explained, Illinois is hoping to not only correct the wrongs of the state’s past, but also commit itself do creating a better future for everyone.
“These 11,017 misdemeanor convictions represent individuals who have carried around with them a stain on their records for possessing less than 30 grams of cannabis – a stain that has very often prevented them from obtaining housing or jobs or benefit,” Governor Pritzker wrote on Twitter.
“Importantly, this is just the first wave of Illinoisans who will see a new world of opportunities emerge as they shed the burden of their nonviolent cannabis-related convictions and records.”
The Attorney General for Cook County, Illinois (which covers Chicago, and is the second-largest jurisdiction of any AG in the United States) also set to work clearing criminal records before the law kicked into effect January 1st. In mid-December, Foxx cleared 10,000 cannabis-related records.
“We are ending the 50-year long war on cannabis. We are restoring rights to many tens of thousands of Illinoisans. We are bringing regulation and safety to a previously unsafe and illegal market. And we are creating a new industry that puts equity at its very core,” said Governor Pritzker.
Wikileaf was not able to obtain estimates for how much money the legal sale of cannabis is expected to amass in the first year of sales, as the projections will be skewed if they are based only on sales from the first week.