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Dispensaries report smooth rollout of legalized marijuana

The first day of legal sales of recreational marijuana in Illinois went "extraordinarily well," according to one industry representative, with total sales on Jan. 1 of nearly $3.2 million.

"I just I cannot express the gratitude from the dispensary operators to our customers about their courtesy and civility and patience. It was really a lovely, very successful rollout, I think, on the first day," Pamela Althoff, executive director of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois, said in an interview Thursday.

On New Year's Day, Illinois became the 11th state to allow legal sales of recreational marijuana to adults. As the clock ticked down to midnight on New Year's Eve, many dispensaries were reporting long lines outside their stores, in some cases stretching around their block.

The much-anticipated event was made possible by passage of a new law during the 2019 legislative session, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which legalized the sale, possession and use of marijuana for people 21 and older.

Former state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, an architect of that law who now serves as Gov. J.B. Pritzker's senior advisor for cannabis control, reported during a news conference Thursday that dispensaries across the state conducted 77,128 transactions on Jan. 1, with sales totaling more than $3.1 million.

That happened despite a few snags on the opening day of sales, Althoff said.

First, she said, there were glitches in the software that dispensaries use at the point of sale, which contributed to long wait times. Previously, dispensaries were allowed to sell only to qualified medical patients, but now they must keep close track of both medical and recreational sales, which are taxed differently.

Adjustments made by the software company to address that change, Althoff said, caused a few problems.

"There were a few glitches, not everywhere, but in a few of the dispensaries," she said. "... But my understanding is that they were rapidly corrected. But it did add to some of the wait times that people experienced."

In addition, she said, many dispensary operators had made design changes to their stores to accommodate a larger retail clientele, but state officials had not yet inspected all of those changes and some dispensaries were unable to open for recreational sales on Jan. 1.

And then there were issues of supply. Under the new law, Althoff said, medical dispensaries, which were the first to receive licenses for recreational sales, are required to keep a 30-day supply of marijuana products for their medical customers, leaving only a limited amount of inventory available for recreational customers.

She said supply shortages are expected to continue until April or May, when cultivation centers that have been licensed to grow recreational marijuana reap their first crop.

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NEW LAWS: The state's minimum wage increaseD by $1 to $9.25 hourly on Wednesday, Jan. 1, the first such increase since 2010. The wage will increase to $10 hourly in July before increasing $1 each January until it hits $15 by 2025.

Some new taxes and fees which will help fund a multi-year $45 billion capital infrastructure plan also took effect starting in January.

Registration fees for passenger vehicles increased to $151 from $101, while electric vehicle registration fees increased to $251 annually from $34 every other year.

The licensing fee for a trailer weighing less than 3,000 pounds also raised from $118 from $18, with every weight class above that also seeing a $100 increase.

A new tax on parking garages also took effect as the new year began, with a 6 percent rate applied to hourly and daily garages and a 9 percent rate applied to monthly.

The state will began taxing the value of traded-in vehicles starting after $10,000 of value, down from $20,000.


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