Pot demand in US state booms in first week of legal sales

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 10 2020 05:16 AM

An employee holds a jar of marijuana on sale at the Greenstone Provisions after it became legal in the state to sell recreational marijuana to customers over 21 years old in Ann Arbor, Michigan, US, Dec. 3, 2019. Matthew Hatcher, Reuters/File

CHICAGO—Demand for legal marijuana in Illinois was so strong that many vendors quickly ran out of supplies, as customers spent nearly $11 million in just 5 days since the drug was legalized in the state on Jan. 1, vendors and officials said.

The sales figure, released by Illinois officials, is more than double the first week of sales in Colorado—the first US state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2014—which raked in $5 million, according to Colorado government figures.

The midwestern state of Illinois became the 11th US state to legalize recreational marijuana at the start of 2020.

There are 37 licensed dispensaries in the state, including 10 in Chicago. 

On New Year's Day most dispensaries opened at 6 a.m. to discovered customers that had lined up in the cold for hours. At some locations the line was 8 blocks long, with wait times reaching 12 hours.

More than $3.1 million in sales on 77,000 transactions took place on opening day, according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. 

Strong demand caused many pot shops to run out supplies, and by Tuesday, only a few shops remained opened. Others decided to serve only medical patients until supply could be replenished.

"Shortages were expected to occur as they have occurred in every other state that has legalized cannabis," Paul Isaac, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, told AFP.

Under the new law, Illinois residents aged 21 and older are able to carry 30 grams of marijuana flower, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate like hash oil, and up to a half-gram of THC — the chemical compound that gets users high — within cannabis-infused products like edibles.

Visitors to the state however can possess only half those amounts.

Medical marijuana dispensaries are currently the only place where legal marijuana can be purchased for recreational use in Illinois.

Beginning in mid-2020, Illinois will grant additional licenses to dozens of new stores, processors, cultivators and transporters, according to Isaac.

Marijuana Business Daily projects that the Illinois recreational program could generate up to $2.5 billion a year.