Recreational use of marijuana became legal in Illinois last week and almost immediately ran into problems.
It seems that while the stores that sell the weed are privately owned, the state was slow in approving cultivation centers to grow it. And after just five days, legal pot dispensaries were running out of product because the cultivation centers didn’t have enough to send.
The state’s 21 cultivation centers simply don’t have enough product to supply the few dozen dispensaries, many of which have been forced to set buying limits and even shut down sales to recreational customers in the wake of legalization.
Despite selling nearly $11 million worth of recreational weed in the first five days of legal weed, a half-dozen dispensaries in Chicago did no recreational sales Monday.
While some stores — including Sunnyside in Lake View and NuMed in West Town — plan to restart sales to recreational customers Tuesday, others — like The Herbal Care Center (THC) on the Near West Side — won’t until later in the week when they expect more products to come in.
Could it be that the problem with finding cultivation centers is that the state is looking for “social equity applicants”?
Other applicants will have an opportunity to apply for licenses in an upcoming phase of the implementation process, with priority going to “social equity applicants” – generally, applicants from communities “disproportionately impacted” by the war on drugs, or individuals with previous arrests or convictions for minor marijuana violations.
The overwhelmed cultivation centers are selling up to 10 times more since legalization compared to when they were only selling grass for “medical use.”
Mark de Souza, CEO of Goose Island-based Revolution Global, said the company’s cultivation center in downstate Delavan is “getting buried now at a level that is even overtaxing our electronic ordering systems.”
Products are selling out within three to six minutes each day, leaving dispensary operators frustrated, according to de Souza. He said Revolution has been shipping $200,000 worth of cannabis flower each week.
There are no large-scale marijuana cultivation centers in the state because they haven’t got around to licensing any yet. And then, there are those pesky “social equity” rules that take precedence.
A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the agency that oversees the state’s grow facilities, said Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration is “taking a deliberative and incremental approach to cannabis legalization” in order to stage a successful rollout and make way for social equity applicants who have pot-related records or live in areas that have borne the brunt of drug war-era enforcement policies.
Those individuals are getting a leg up in the process of awarding craft grow permits, as well as for permits for new dispensaries and other pot-related businesses.
Why not just set racial quotas rather than going through this farce of finding stoners willing to get up off their couches, turn off their TVs, and start a business?
What they’re hoping is that some of the gang-bangers and criminals who sold pot on the street will clean up their act and pay the state for the privilege of going straight. If that sounds sort of crazy, it is.