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Legal Marijuana Sales Start In Collinsville And Across Illinois

Long lines at the Collinsville dispensary greeted the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in Illinois.
Belleville News-Democrat
Long lines at the Collinsville dispensary greeted the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales in Illinois.

COLLINSVILLE — The first day of 2020 has been highly anticipated for many — from baby boomers who remember smoking pot before the government declared the drug wasn’t safe to Medicaid patients who have waited to use cannabis for pain management in place of pills.

It is the first time anyone 21 years old or older can legally buy marijuana in Illinois, the 11th state to legalize weed for people other than medical cannabis patients.

Illinois Supply and Provisions is the only local dispensary opening its doors to the new weed customers on New Year’s Day. It’s a medical dispensary at 1014 Eastport Plaza Drive in Collinsville that received state permission to make recreational sales.

On Tuesday afternoon, the dispensary’s parking lot was closed off, and a sign reading, “No overnight parking” was displayed, so a line of customers didn’t form on New Year’s Eve. Customers still arrived before the sun came up Wednesday.

By 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, a line wrapped around the Eastport Plaza Drive parking lot, which was still blocked off to cars, and down a nearby street, Executive Drive. People were bundled up in coats, hats and blankets. Some brought chairs to sit in while they waited.

The dispensary is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Jan. 1.

Willing to wait

Customers in line get inside on a first-come, first-served basis unless they are medical cannabis patients, who move to the front of the line if they show a program registry ID card.

One customer, a 62-year-old business owner, said he heard on the news early Wednesday morning that 100 people were already lining up at the dispensary. When he arrived before 6 a.m., he estimated there were at least a few hundred people in line.

The same scene is expected across Illinois, as consumers head to dispensaries to buy recreational marijuana the first day it becomes legal.

The 62-year-old asked not to be identified in part because he doesn’t want to alienate potential customers for his floor installing company.

After 43 years in a job that can be hard on his body, he said he wanted to buy marijuana Wednesday to help his pain.

The Collinsville site is the only marijuana store approved for recreational sales in the Metro East, though the law says up to four will be permitted in the region. Other communities have approved local regulations in case a dispensary company wants to open there.

Preparing for legalization

On New Year’s Eve, Gov. J.B. Pritzker pardoned thousands of low-level marijuana convictions across the state. In the Metro East alone, 1,004 non-violent, misdemeanor offenses related to weed were cleared.

“We are ending the 50-year-long war on cannabis,” Pritzker said in a statement released Tuesday. “We are restoring rights to many tens of thousands of Illinoisans. We are bringing regulation and safety to a previously unsafe and illegal market. And we are creating a new industry that puts equity at its very core.”

Even though it’s legal, employers and landlords will still be able to decide if they allow smoking. Some people planning to purchase marijuana have expressed concern about speaking to the Belleville News-Democrat because they fear they could lose their job.

Lexi Cortes is a reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio

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