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Crowds Flock to Dispensaries Across Illinois on First Day of Legal Pot Sales

Illinoisans flocked to marijuana dispensaries across the state on Wednesday, the first day residents were allowed to purchase the substance legally. Some stores opened their doors as early as 6:00 a.m., but hundreds of people began to line up outside many of the state’s more than 40 dispensaries long before in the very early morning hours. 

Illinois residents 21 and older can now buy 30 grams of marijuana in plant form, edibles with up to 500 milligrams of THC, and up to 5 grams in other forms. Non-residents can purchase half that amount. 

“As we start a new decade, Illinois has achieved a monumental milestone – launching the legalization of cannabis in a way that includes communities left behind for far too long, creates good jobs and expunges thousands of records for those who have lost out on opportunities and ends prohibition,” said Toi Hutchinson, Senior Advisor to the Governor for Cannabis Control in a press release Wednesday morning. “Today is a historic new day, and as we move forward with growing this industry, I thank all those who worked hard to make the launch a success and will continue to dedicate themselves to expanding opportunities and righting the wrongs of the past.”

Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton was among customers who flocked to the Sunnyside Dispensary in Lakeview, where she purchased a 100 mg tin of edibles, according to CBS2. “I’m here to celebrate a big day in Illinois,” she said. “For too long, IL residents, particularly those that are black & brown, have been targeted and criminalized for #cannabis possession,” Stratton tweeted later. 

On Tuesday, Governor JB Pritzker issued 11,017 pardons for low level cannabis convictions in 92 counties across the state. 

“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,” Pritzker said in a statement. “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.”

According to the Governor’s office, there are some 116,000 records eligible for expungement for convictions for up to 30 grams not associated with a violent offense. Of those, 43,500 involve cannabis convictions alone and 72,500 include another non-violent offense. An additional 34,000 records for cannabis offenses for up to 500 grams are eligible for expungement as well, along with approximately 572,000 arrest records.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also applauded the day. 

“Over the past seven months, we have worked tirelessly with community stakeholders, business groups and state leaders to ensure this new industry will not only be operated safely and responsibly, but also to help drive economic growth and jobs in our neighborhoods, particularly those that have borne the brunt of the War on Drugs,” Lightfoot said in a press release. “Together, we will place Chicago and Illinois at the forefront of leveraging the cannabis industry to expand social equity, and create a legalization model the rest of the nation can follow.”

Update (2:15pm)

Governor Pritzker’s office says the first day of legal marijuana sales generated some $3.2 million. According to Fox32, state officials reported that there were 77,128 transactions on Wednesday. Hutchinson told reporters on Thursday that the long lines for marijuana show “an incredible opportunity to grow this industry.” “There’s new room for new people to come in,” she said.

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