Saturday, December 28, 2019

It’s now only days away: Jan. 1 to usher in the era of legalized recreational weed in Illinois. ‘It changes everything.’

From Chicago Tribune:

Jessica Ryan, director of cultivation, looks over product in the drying room at Cresco Labs in Joliet on Dec. 17, 2019. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)

This New Year’s Day will be celebrated like no other in Illinois. At the stroke of midnight Jan. 1, possession and consumption of limited amounts of marijuana will become legal in Illinois for recreational use.
No doubt, some people will light up to celebrate. But, because only sales from licensed dealers will be authorized, it won’t be legal to buy or sell cannabis until those stores open, starting at 6 a.m. at the earliest. That’s when the real party will begin for some.
After a decadeslong push to legalize it, cannabis legalization in Illinois begins a new era in criminal law and daily life. As happened in the 10 other states that legalized commercial sales, long lines and short supplies are expected.
Only 35 stores have been authorized to open statewide ― fewer than the number of Starbucks in downtown Chicago. That’s about one store for every 28,000 of the estimated 1 million or so potential customers, though they won’t all show up on one day.

As with the prohibition of alcohol a century ago, the ban on pot was meant to prevent crime and social decay, but critics said it instead financed organized crime and disproportionately put blacks behind bars, while people kept consuming illegally anyway.

Workers roll joints at Cresco Labs in Joliet on Dec. 17, 2019. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)
“Prohibition doesn’t work,” was the mantra of the chief sponsors of the law, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy and state Sen. Heather Steans. The Chicago Democrats said the change will generate tax revenue and increase public safety by requiring testing of products for pesticides and contaminants like mold, and to ensure they contain the potency claimed.
Opponents of the law fear it will increase use and dependence, particularly among teens. While adult use has gone up in some states where pot’s been legalized, teen use has remained fairly stable.
In any case, day one weed sales are expected to be “off the charts,” based on the experience in California reported by market researchers BDS Analytics, which described huge crowds in a festive mood lining up from the early morning. Sales stayed strong all that week.
In anticipation of high demand, many medical marijuana dispensaries, which get the first chance to offer recreational sales, have been expanding and remodeling.
Cresco Labs rebranded its stores under the name Sunnyside, with the stated mission on its website to “normalize responsible cannabis use.” Green Thumb Industries renamed some of its five stores Rise, and expanded some of its sites, including the most popular store in the state, in Mundelein. For opening day, both chains plan to offer tents, food and beverages to waiting customers, with Cresco renting a cafe near its site in Lakeview.

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