Illinois Celebrates New Year with First Day of Recreational Cannabis Sales

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CHICAGO – On January 1, 2020, Illinois became the eleventh state to legalize non-medicinal cannabis sales. Despite product shortages and long lines (which is typical whenever new markets open), customers remain upbeat about recreational cannabis in Illinois.

“It’s history, so it’s worth the wait,” Damien Smith of Maywood told Chicago Tribune leaving MedMen dispensary in Oak Park, Illinois.

Renzo Mejia, who endured freezing temperatures overnight to be first in line at Chicago’s Dispensary 33, became the first Illinois resident to legally purchase recreational cannabis. Mejia is a registered medicinal patient and works in the cannabis industry.

“To be able to have [recreational marijuana] here is just mind-boggling,” Mejia told Chicago Sun-Times. “To be able to now make the first purchase in Chicago, it’s just surreal.”

Industry members and cannabis superfans were not the only ones waiting in line. Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton was one of the first customers to purchase cannabis on New Year’s Day. 

“For too long, [Illinois] residents, particularly those that are black & brown, have been targeted and criminalized for #cannabis possession,” Stratton said in a tweet after her visit to Cresco Labs’ dispensary located in the Lake View neighborhood in Chicago. “It’s not just a new year, it’s a new day. Thank you, @GovPritzker, for ending prohibition and building a more equitable Illinois.”

According to a statement from Cresco Lab President Joe Caltabiano, Stratton left the dispensary with Mindy’s Glazed Clementine Orange Gummies. Each gummy includes 5mg THC and is a “very popular microdose for beginning edibles consumers,” said Caltabiano.

The Lt. Governor’s public embrace of the industry may help reduce the stigma associated with cannabis. For one couple, legalization is a relief.

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”We don’t have to hide it anymore,” Jennifer Slusinski, who waited on line at Rise, a dispensary located in Joliet, Illinois, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We don’t have to feel guilty, I guess.”

Although anticipation was high leading up to January 1, the first day of recreational sales seemed to exceed most expectations. Cal Marek tweeted a video showing long lines forming at a Romeoville dispensary, an area just north of Joliet, Illinois. Marek’s video showed huge customer lines that seemed to span the equivalent of several city blocks.

Even industry members have been surprised at the overwhelming consumer response to recreational sales. 

“We expected some sort of line, but I didn’t expect nonstop,” said Gorgi Naumovski, principal officer at Thrive in Anna, Illinois. “Good thing we’ve got five acres next to us. You’d think there was a flea market or an auction.”

So far, forty-three dispensaries have been approved to sell recreational cannabis. All but six are already operating. While shops may be overwhelmed at the moment, demand will likely plateau sometime soon after the novelty of legal sales wears off.

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