Legalization comes to the Land of Lincoln on New Year’s Day, and Leafly is on the ground with coverage from cannabis dispensaries across Illinois. Check back throughout the day as we continue to bring you highlights from around the state.
Illinois legalization launch clears liftoff, heads to orbit
2:00 p.m., Chicago—They came before dawn. Their extremities went numb. Yet they smiled and cheered, and then they got high.
Launch day for Illinois legalization is well underway this afternoon, with tens of thousands of people likely to cycle through several dozen stores across the state. Meanwhile, on TV, the world watched and rooted them on.
Waits ran four-plus hours at the MOCA dispensary near Logan Square in Chicago at midday, and recreational supplies of flowers were already running low, staffers told the crowd. Still, none gave up their place in line. Rather, the sunny 40-degree weather and all the news reports only served to grow the throngs—such was the draw of hype and history across the Land of Lincoln today.
The days and weeks to come promise more lines, along with extensive recreational product shortages—but those are mere growing pains.
Every attendee that Leafly talked to today agreed that what began before dawn in Illinois promises to reverberate across the Midwest, South, and East of the US—fomenting even bigger changes.
“I love this shit so much,” said one man in a three-hour line at Dispensary 33. “This is great.”
Two latecomers, Patrick—a 47-year-old project manager—and his partner Yolanda—in her 40s and in finance—noted the launch day was like the Popeye’s Chicken sandwich rollout of 2019. Of course there is scarcity.
And almost everyone could agree with Patrick, who said, “I’m kind of mad I didn’t get up earlier.”
Thanks for reading along with Leafly’s liveblog of the day’s events. Keep reading below for all the quotes, photos, and color of the day. And stay tuned to Leafly for where legalization goes from here.
3-hour wait for legal herb? ‘We don’t mind’
12:39 p.m., Chicago—Diontae, 35, and Monika 32, are both from the South Side of Chicago. Both saw the morning news coverage of opening day sales at Illinois cannabis stores, jumped in their car together, and drove down to Sunnyside near Wrigleyville to get into the back of what is now a three-hour line to buy legal cannabis. It’s also 21 degrees out—in the sun.
“They didn’t show the line on the news,” said Diontae.
“This is crazy—all these people openly standing in line; to buy drugs,” he said. “We don’t do lines. But this is one line we don’t mind waiting in.”
“It’s so mind-blowing,” he said. “We’re from the South Side, so we’re impacted by the war on drugs.”
Diontae had a cannabis conviction that he got expunged on his own. He expects to spend $120 to $140 on cannabis flower. “We’ll try edibles later.”
On their last trip to Las Vegas, the duo failed to make it to a legal store and promised themselves they’d return to hit one up. Now they don’t have to schlep to Vegas. “You don’t have to go to Cali or Michigan.”
‘I’m thrilled to have these dispensaries’
12:33 p.m., Chicago—Dispensary 33 in Chicago hosted a 10 a.m. press conference featuring several city and officials, including the Chicago Deputy Mayor Samir Mayekar, several alderman, and a number of state representatives.
Dispensary 33 had served 350 people in just a few hours, with hundreds more still waiting to be served.
Legalization bill sponsor State Rep. Kelly Cassidy stopped by the store and said “this is surreal,” referring to the hundreds waiting patiently down the block.
'This is the beginning of the end of the war on drugs.'Rep. Kelly Cassidy, sponsor of the Illinois legalization measure
Cassidy said she looks forward to implementing equity licensing and automatic expungements. “This isn’t the finish line. This is the beginning of the end of the war on drugs.”
While many Illinois cities have rejected legal sales, some Chicago wards are welcoming them. Fortieth ward Alderman Andre Vasquez said friends have been arrested and some have died in the war on cannabis. “It really does warm my heart on this very cold day,” he said. “Yeah, i’m just geeked.”
Forty-seventh ward Alderman Matt Martin celebrated Dispensary 33’s local ownership. “We need to live our values,” he said. “This proves change is possible. I’m thrilled to have these dispensaries in my ward.”
Licenses kill the illegal market…
…but if you don’t give out the licenses, people can’t buy legally and the illegal market thrives. We’ve seen this in many states. California’s transition from illegal to legal is moving at a glacial pace because too many local towns and counties prohibit legal stores. Illinois is just waking up to the issue.
Lines still forming at stores around Chicagoland
11:06 a.m., Chicago—As the morning approaches the noon hour, more New Year revelers are waking up and taking their place at the end of the still-growing lines at legal cannabis stores around Illinois. Leafly’s David Downs shot this video at Dispensary 33 on North Clark Street a few minutes ago:
Donuts, hot dogs, and propane heaters in Homewood
10:41 a.m., Homewood—Windy City Cannabis in Homewood, IL, which is just ten miles from the Indiana state line, did it right for their customers: Outside heaters, donuts, and hot dogs for those in line.
Richard, who was standing right under one of the heaters, was hoping to obtain some Blue Gelato and Durban Poison. A sativa fan, he was fifth in line and had been there since 8 a.m. Doors were scheduled to open at 11 a.m.
He didn’t have a medical cannabis card, Richard said. He came here from Oak Lawn because that city passed an ordinance banning adult-use cannabis stores.
“That was a mistake,” he said. “I think they’ll realize that soon.”
Another gentleman standing next to Richard — well disguised, I might add, with sunglasses and enough bundling to never be recognized as well as keep the cold out — did not wish to give his name, and he said he almost went to Joliet this morning because there were two open shops there, which could mean shorter lines. “But I think I came to the right place.”
Lt. Gov. Stratton marks history: ‘A model for the entire country’
10:12 a.m., Chicago—Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton was on hand Wednesday morning to buy cannabis at Sunnyside in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.
“We believe the social equity aspects of this legislation should be a model for the entire country,” she said outside the store. “Yesterday, Governor Pritzker pardoned 11,017 low-level cannabis arrests and convictions. That’s just the beginning. We have hundreds of thousands more who will be eligible for having their records expunged. That’s a big deal.”
Better than waiting for the new iPhone
‘The stigma is real’ for many Illinois consumers
10:07 a.m., Chicago—They pulled hoodies down over their faces and turned away from the news cameras. They declined to give their name, or used a fake. And they are many.
Even though cannabis is now legal in Illinois, the stigma remains. You can lose your job, education, housing, kids, pain medication, or more over cannabis. Locals are savvy the consequences of being outed as a cannabis consumer.
Thirty-year-old “Noire” declined to give her real name and confirmed, “the stigma is real.”
“All of these people are in jail on marijuana charges,” she added. Illinois State Police made more than 34,000 cannabis arrests in 2016.
Noire lined up around dawn to get edibles and be a part of the big day. “It’s historic. We are one of the only liberal states in the midwest.”
Others in line noted the diverse ages and ethnicities of the crowd. “So this is who smokes weed,” said one customer. “People from all walks of life.”
‘It feels good to be a part of history’
9:55 a.m., Chicago—Mohammed, 26, and Amir, 24, both of Chicago spent $90 each on Starkiller and Durban Poison. “It feels good to be a part of history,” said Mohammed. “It’ll show people cannabis use is no big deal.”
Mohammend hopes to visit every open cannabis store and “catch ’em all” like Pokemon. And both men look forward to prices coming down. “We’re not a big fan of the prices.”
As we were talking, a passerby eyed the line and said, “My guy is faster than this.”
Romeoville represents in the 23-degree cold
9:50 a.m., Romeoville—At VeriLife‘s store here in Romeoville, Dylan arrived from his home in Naperville about 3:30 a.m., and found himself first in line.
Dylan sported a Chicago Blackhawks cap and as much warm weather gear as he could find. The only thing he was missing? Some good boots.
His fiancee and he tag-teamed to keep their spot in line, each taking time to warm up in their nearby vehicle — especially his feet. As we were talking, a young man strolled past to find the end of the line, blocks away. He was dressed in sandals and warm socks.
When asked what he wanted to find inside the store at the 9:00 am start time, Dylan said, “I want a cartridge, and possibly a gram.”
As I moved down the line, somebody shouted, “Hey, Dylan — REPRESENT!”
Another waiting customer, Rich, wasn’t even sure what he wanted to find. “I’ve been here since seven o’clock,” he said. “I’m just looking for something to help me sleep, and something to make me giggle.”
He didn’t seem too upset about being in line. “January first, everybody else is home with a hangover.”
Near the end of the line—which was still adding people by the minute—Gina and Lauren were pretty sure they wanted to get some high-quality flower. They didn’t seem to mind the line, or the 23-degree cold.
“It’s not windy. It’s really not that bad out. The sun came out, so that helps.”
Pro tip: An Illinois patrol car passed me by as I drove to a parking spot in this heavily industrial area, blocks past the end of the line. He flagged me. “Just so you know, we’re not patrolling the private parking lots. I didn’t say that officially …” he added with a smile.
Sorry, military spouses must step off-base to puff
9:30 a.m., Chicago—Scott Air Force Base News brings us information about cannabis use for those connected to the military: Marijuana may be legal in Illinois, but what about Scott Air Force Base?
Though affiliated with military, be it active duty, Reserves, or National Guard, military spouses are still treated as civilians in the eyes of the law and the military. So, if something is legal in your state, then military spouses are treated the same as any other civilian.
But that does not include cannabis use on government property as these are still federally-controlled substances. Government property includes on base or in any military housing, on base or off.
Also, be aware that even if you can use cannabis, your service member cannot. If you leave cannabis in a vehicle that your service member drives onto base, he or she has technically introduced an illegal substance onto a military installation. The use or possession of an illegal substance could end a service member’s career.
Illinois State Police: Use common sense, don’t smoke and drive
9:15 a.m., Chicago—Illinois State Police chief Brandon Kelly discussed fears of DUI increases after legalization in a radio interview. “There’s differing opinions about what the data say,” he said.
For example, lots of folks look to Colorado as the test subject for this policy. Just for the record, in Colorado, traffic fatalities fell in 2019 to 533, down 55 from the prior year; off a 2002 peak of 677.
Colorado’s also maybe not the best barometer, though—they have very loose traffic safety laws; you can’t be pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt.
“In the end it comes down to common sense,” said Kelly. “Not a lot will change on Jan.1 in terms of enforcement you can’t be driving aorund in your vehicle high on cannabis, that’s not safe, just as it’s not safe to drive under the influence of alcohol, or heroin, or fentanyl.
In Washington, the data continues to implicate alcohol as the problem driver in that legalization state.
Here’s Washington’s snapshot of fatal accidents. It’s flat.
Still, two-thirds of Illinois drivers in a AAA survey said they were “very concerned” about cannabis on the roadways.
New day dawns at O’Hare Airport as weed walks free
9:08 a.m., Chicago—Don’t fly with cannabis. You don’t have the nerve to be a smuggler like Han Solo.
But if you accidentally do fly with cannabis out of Illinois, take heart. State police have to enforce state law. Personal amounts of cannabis cannot be seized. According to NBC:
“If it’s not a violation, we would offer them proper disposal, if they wish, or they could continue on with their travels,” Mullane said, adding that CPD cannot require someone to dispose of it if it is legal.
“We would explain to them that under federal law, it is still a violation and that based on where they are going to it may be a violation there,” he added. “No different if they are flying into Chicago with product. If they are legal, they are legal.”
But still, don’t do it. The mayor’s office also warned that “federal law prohibits cannabis possession in any amount,” which could affect travelers.
“Transportation of any amount of cannabis remains illegal across state lines, and possession of cannabis may be illegal in the state or country to which you are traveling,” said a statement from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office.
South Side Chicago cannabis sales start at Mission Illinois
8:31 a.m., Chicago—Edie Moore, executive director of Chicago NORML and a key champion of legalization, became the first person to buy legal cannabis in Chicago’s famous South Side at 6 a.m. Wednesday.
Moore was the guest of honor at Mission Illinois, the only South Side dispensary approved for adult-use sales on launch day.
“It feels amazing to be the first purchaser,” Moore told Leafly.
It’s a historic moment for South Side residents, she said.
“It means they have a place to actually come—Mission is a really great facility and it’s clean and it’s friendly and they don’t have to travel all the way to the north side that’s great.”
Moore spent $70 on an eighth-ounce of White Harmony.
Lines are long and getting longer at Mission Illinois, as more folks see the news on morning TV and rush down. Additionally, Moore reported that the state purchase system went down briefly, creating additional delays.
Kris Krane, founder of Mission Illinois and an industry veteran, said lines were running about three hours and more people were showing up to the only dispensary open on the South Side.
“It’s an honor to represent legalization on the South Side,” Krane said. “This community has been hit hardest by cannabis prohibition, so it is heartwarming to be able to provide a professional environment where residents can legally purchase cannabis without fear of arrest or stigma of being branded a criminal. We look forward to being a productive member of the community for years to come.”
Springfield turns out early for opening day
Hey, don’t know if you heard, but weed is legal in Illinois.
We are almost 2 hours in, and the line is still stretching around the block for Illinois Supply and Provisions in Springfield. People have been in line since 1 PM YESTERDAY pic.twitter.com/bIct7zgrpm
— Cole Henke (@cole_Henke) January 1, 2020
Equity license applicant early in line
6:56 a.m., Chicago—One of the early customers at Chicago’s Sunnyside cannabis store was Elise Swopes, age 30, from the Wrigleyville area.
A medical cannabis patient since summer, she’s helping her cousin Aaron apply for an equity license to sell cannabis. “We’re excited to be a part of it,” she said.
She said she’s “extremely hopeful” for her cousin, Aaron, who gets bonus points on his application for having a cannabis conviction.
The latest data available show that Illinois police made over 34,000 cannabis arrests in 2016, the majority of them for simple possession.
‘Surreal in the best possible way’
Local reacted on social media to the state’s first morning of legal sales.
Today I am going to get into my car, drive 2 minutes down the road, enter a store, and purchase legal weed. This is so surreal, in the best possible way 🙂
But don’t think I won’t get loud as hell if we don’t see license priority for POC this year, Illinois.
— stephanie lynn (@stephanieIynnnn) January 1, 2020
Its 2020 and this part of Illinois doesn’t smell like weed. Guess that argument of “if you make it legal, everyone will do it” didn’t pan out, huh?
— LILWOOLEY (@theLILWOOLEY) January 1, 2020
After seeing the prices of Illinois weed they can go ahead and make that shit illegal again, at least it was affordable before 😂
— Stevie Rich (@rich_stevie) January 1, 2020
‘We got weed!’ in Joliet
6:37 a.m., Joliet—Just prior to opening at 6:00 a.m., the atmosphere at Rise in Joliet was jovial despite the frigid 20-degree temperatures.
The first person in line, Casey, had been there since 1:30 a.m. “We wanted to wait inside our cars, where we had heat, but two other cars pulled in and we saw people getting out. So we beat them to the door!”
As the clock showed 5:59:50, the crowd began counting down. “5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … YEEESSSSS!”
Casey was beaming as he completed his purchase. One item he was really pleased with? “Got a pre-roll—White 99!” The staff at Rise also gave him a free grinder for being there on opening day.
Rise boasts that the family of its founder, Ben Kovler, played a part in the first prohibition:
“Rise’s founder, Ben Kovler, comes from a legacy of post-prohibition pioneers. His great grandfather, Harry Blum, invested in Jim Beam back in the early 30’s and transformed it into one of America’s most iconic brands.”
Some of the folks in line were reluctant to be photographed. “You don’t want your boss to know?” one person asked. “I don’t want my MOM to know!” another answered.
“My work thinks I’m in Chicago!”
As another happy customer headed out the door, he shouted as he held up his bag, “WE GOT WEED!” The crowd cheered in response.
— Brandon Weber
Cannabis history made before dawn in Chicago
6:25 a.m., Chicago—Who says cannabis consumers aren’t productive?
While most of America snored through their New Year’s Day hangover—Illinois cannabis fans donned skiwear and braved sub-freezing temperatures to smoke a piece of state history before dawn.
Thirty-five-year-old Forest Park resident Jackie Ryan took the sleep aid melatonin and went to bed at 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve to get up at 1 a.m. on New Year’s Day and become the first in line to purchase legal cannabis in Illinois state history this morning.
At 6 a.m central standard time, Ryan bought a pre-roll, an edible, and an eighth-ounce of Durban Poison for $120 as the crowd whooped and an international video feed broadcasted the images by satellite worldwide. Hundreds more customers waited outside.
Ryan said she did it to “be a part of history. I really didn’t think I’d ever see this day in Illinois.”
She said she knows people who’ve gotten into major trouble with cannabis, including one friend who was imprisoned in Texas.
She said legalization “will absolutely change the conversation in the midwest.”
Video of first sale. pic.twitter.com/47PhuisqrQ
— David Downs (@davidrdowns) January 1, 2020
More than 100 people— many still smelling of alcohol, or intoxicated from New Year’s Eve revelry–stamped their feet and tried to keep their hands warm in 21 degree darkness.
Aaron Schneider, 24, from Boystown said he was standing 3rd in line in the cold outside for “Weed!”
Schneider said he didn’t vote for Gov. J.B. Pritzker, “but he got the job done” with regard to cannabis.
Schneider got in line at 1:30 a.m., part of a plan to spend the evening making history.
The first time Schneider smoked weed he was 16, “it was the 4th of July, it was great.”
He said Illinois legalization was inevitable after Colorado started in 2012.
Cancer patient among first in line for rec sales
5:15 a.m., Chicago—Outside the Sunnyside cannabis store in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood, one of the first guys in line in the cold was Dustin Kennedy, age 30, from the neighborhood. When his wife started getting sleepy after midnight, he excused himself to get in line. He forgot his ID though, meaning he could not buy anything. So his wife got up, came over, and dropped it off. “Don’t call me again,” she said.
The first time Kennedy had smoked was age 18, out of a soda can. He said he knew people busted for cannabis and “it fucked their life up.” Kennedy planned on spending $200 max, with his wife’s permission—on edibles and transdermal patches. He can’t smoke.
Kennedy is currently in treatment for lung cancer, and cannabis helps a lot with the itching and insomnia caused by his cancer medication.
Kennedy said he knew legalization would come to Illinois eventually.
“I’m excited to see the tax revenue. They need the money for sure.”
To get ready for the launch, read our preview coverage:
Learn where stores are, what’s for sale, prices, and selection in Leafly’s Illinois cannabis legalization launch guide, Illinois dispensaries open New Year’s Day for adult-use sales.
And figure out how long recreational supplies should last, and how long it’ll take to meet the demand: Illinois dispensary supply levels—can they hold up?
For how we got here, read Illinois Just Legalized Cannabis. Here’s What Happens Next
Know before you go
Gov. Pritzker clears 11,000 cannabis convictions
CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois’ governor granted more than 11,000 pardons for low-level marijuana convictions on Tuesday, describing the step as a first wave of thousands of such expungements anticipated under the state’s new marijuana legalization law.
The expungement process is a key part of the law, which takes effect Wednesday and made Illinois the 11th state to legalize marijuana for people 21 or older. When they crafted the policy, Illinois lawmakers said they wanted to repair some of the damage caused by law enforcement’s efforts to combat sale and use of the drug, particularly in minority communities.
Tomorrow, Illinois will become the 11th state to legalize and regulate adult-use cannabis.
But our state is today doing something that sets us apart: Illinois is putting equity first, clearing thousands of convictions and giving individuals & their families a new lease on life. pic.twitter.com/IgoOJCAlZj
— Governor JB Pritzker (@GovPritzker) December 31, 2019
Pritzker announced the pardons at a church on Chicago’s South Side. He said clearing the misdemeanor offenses from individuals’ records will make it easier for them to get jobs, housing and financial aid for college.
State officials estimate that 116,000 convictions involving 30 grams or less of marijuana, including for possession of the drug, are eligible for pardons under the new law. Illinois State Police are responsible for identifying those convictions and sending the records to the state’s Prisoner Review Board, which then forwarded eligible cases to the governor’s office for pardons.
Everybody’s getting ready
Too high? Here’s how to help
Somebody’s gonna overdo it and get too high. It happens on every opening day. With edibles, remember: Start low, go slow. If you haven’t tried an edible before, try a low dose like 5mg or 10 mg, give it at least an hour to fully kick in, and enjoy the ride.
If you find yourself or a friend kinda out there, Leafly has a couple great resources.
- How to help a friend who got too high is Tricia Romano’s complete guide to comforting a friend who finds themselves in a state.
- 8 ways to counteract a too-intense cannabis high is Lisa Rough’s more self-focused resource.
The main thing to remember: Stay calm and breathe. This too shall pass. Nobody has ever died from consuming too much cannabis.
Pro tip: Don’t take it out of state
You think those Indiana state troopers are sleeping late on New Year’s Day? Think again. Prohibition states often like to make a statement by mounting emphasis patrols near the borders of legal states. In 2016, a federal court ordered Kansas state troopers to stop the practice of pulling over cars with Colorado plates just because they suspected their drivers of possessing cannabis.
If history repeats, there will be plenty of state police cars prowling the east-west highways near the Illinois border this week. Here’s the risk you run in those border states for a first offense. (Information courtesy of our friends at NORML.)
Indiana: Possession of up to 1 ounce = 180 days in jail, $1,000 fine
Kentucky: Possession of up to 8 ounces = 45 days in jail, $250 fine
Missouri: Possession of up to 10 grams = $500 fine
Iowa: Possession of any amount = 6 months in jail, $1,000 fine
Wisconsin: Possession of any amount = 6 months in jail, $1,000 fine
Illinois and Michigan share a border in the middle of Lake Michigan, and cannabis possession is legal for adults in Michigan, but crossing state lines with cannabis remains technically illegal. So don’t do it, even in a boat.