Recreational marijuana will soon be legal in Illinois. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy to get.
Illinois legalized weed over the summer. Sales are set to begin on Jan. 1.
According to reports from The Chicago Tribune and others, though, preparation for the rollout has been messy and shrouded in confusion.
Only five dispensaries have nabbed licenses to offer recreational marijuana so far. Most of them sit close to Chicago, and the entire rest of the state is vastly underserved.
One dispensary, in Naperville, won’t be able to sell weed at all after the Naperville City Council voted last week to prohibit recreational sales within city limits. Voters will now decide pot's fate in a public referendum.
The village of Mundelein may kneecap its legal clinic as well, and other towns could do the same as Illinois hands out more licenses through this year and next.
But that’s far from the only problem. Even dispensaries in pot-friendly places are a tad perplexed over what Illinois will require of them.
The bill that legalized weed gave state officials 180 days to conjure regulations for their new industry. With a little more than 100 days before the business goes live, those regulations haven’t been released yet, and may not hit the books until right before legal sales begin.
“There will be a lot of dispensaries not ready,” Gorgi Naumovski, CEO of Thrive Dispensary, told the Chicago Tribune. “We’re all in the dark.”
That’s apparent when you call Thrive. The company owns two medical dispensaries in Southern Illinois, including one in Harrisburg — about 60 miles from Evansville.
Like most medical clinics, it would probably be thrilled to branch into recreational marijuana.
But if you ring them up to ask about that, you’re immediately re-routed to a voice message that politely begs you not to ask them about the law.
“If you are calling for information regarding the Illinois recreational cannabis program,” the voice chipperly says, “please visit the Illinois Department of Public Health website for further information.”
That would be excellent advice – if you could find any information on that website.
Links for medicinal marijuana light up the homepage, but there's nothing about recreational readily available. And if you search “recreational cannabis,” all you get are minutes from a State Board of Health meeting from September 2018.
If you search “recreational marijuana,” the website asks, “did you mean educational Marion?”