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Illinois Sold More Than $3 Million In Legal Weed On First Sales Day

Illinois’ recreational cannabis dispensaries made around $3.2 million in sales on New Year’s Day, according to early estimates from a state agency overseeing the now-legal industry.

Customers lined up at 20 dispensaries that were open across the state and made more than 77,000 thousand individual purchases of flower, edible, and concentrated liquid products, according to Illinois' Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

That dwarfed first day sales at dispensaries in nearby Michigan, where cannabis has been legal for about a month. The Detroit Free Press reported consumers there bought just $221,000 worth of cannabis on the first legal sales day.

Former Illinois state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, now an advisor to Governor J.B. Pritzker on cannabis control, called the sales “historic” and said Illinois’ legal market has a bright future.

“The significance [of New Year's Day] was that it was the end of prohibition and the beginning of how we hope to grow a new industry here in Illinois and then teach other states how to do it," she told reporters at an event in Chicago.

Industry officials have indicated the first day of legal sales went pretty smoothly. Cannabis Business Association of Illinois Executive Director Pam Althoff said only one dispensary ran out of product, thanks in part to the 20 in-state cultivation centers currently supplying cannabis products to retailers. There had been widespread anticipation that many cannabis sellers would sell out due to strong demand.

"A lot of people came [to dispensaries] with the idea that they weren't going to purchase a flower product and tried some of the other types of consumables," Althoff said of those who participated.

Althoff said customers who waited in line on the first day were well-educated on the new law.

“Our customers were very well aware of the limitations on possession, how the process was going to work, [and] the anticipation of long lines," she said. "It [the day] went better than we could have expected.”

According to the state's new recreational cannabis law, Illinois will license at least 75 more dispensaries and another 40 "craft" growing operations (those with 5,000 square feet of growing space or less) by this summer. Althoff said that's because demand for cannabis products is expected to remain high, while cannabis plants themselves have to grow for between three and four months before their flower can be harvested.

Sam is a Public Affairs Reporting intern for spring 2018, working out the NPR Illinois Statehouse bureau.
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