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Illinois’ Cannabis Market Opens As Thousands Are Pardoned for Past Convictions

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Jan 02, 2020   
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The first batch of legal recreational cannabis products have been sold in Illinois, six months after adult use was formally legalized by the state.

In Chicago, hundreds lined the streets hours before dispensaries opened this Wednesday morning.

And for thousands of Illinois' cannabis consumers, recreational legalization was just the second legal change to be thankful for. Just a day prior on December 31, the state governor’s office pardoned more than 11,000 residents for low-level cannabis convictions.

11 and counting

Since January 1, 2020, Illinois residents over the age of 21 with valid identification can legally purchase cannabis from a licensed retailer.

Residents can carry up to 30 grams of dried cannabis flower, 5 grams of concentrates, and up to 500mg of THC in an edible form. Non-residents and tourists can only purchase up to half as much.

Crucially for the communities who have been disproportionally targeted by prohibitionist laws, the state’s legislation has been described as the “most equity centric piece of cannabis legalization in the country.”

In the first wave of the equity plan, Illinois governor JB Pritzker granted 11,017 pardons to people who had previously been convicted of cannabis possession.

“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 benefits,” Pritzker wrote in a statement.

Green and clean

Though the pardons were unprecedented, the state's expungement process still has some way to go. Around 116,000 convictions for possession of 30g or less of marijuana are eligible for pardons under the new law, according to the Associated Press. But further equity actions were always rooted in Illinois’ legalization plan.

“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,” Pritzker continued.

As part of the reparation-focused rollout, a $100 million per year fund will provide resources to disproportionately impacted areas and a $30 million fund will provide seed capital for social equity entrepreneurs.

However, for the moment, only the state’s existing medical dispensaries are facilitating recreational sales. And out of the 55 medical outlets in the state, around 34 have completed the process to become state-licensed for recreational sales. This retail paucity will likely lead to supply shortages as the year goes on, but new stores are expected to open as soon as May.

Leo Bear-McGuinness

Science Writer & Editor

Leo joined Analytical Cannabis in 2019. From research to regulations and analysis to agriculture, his writing covers all the need-to-know news for the cannabis industry. He holds a Bachelor's in Biology from Newcastle University and a Master's in Science Communication from the University of Edinburgh.


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