Smoked out: 6 approved recreational pot dispensaries won’t open on Jan. 1

Construction and permitting are among the issues delaying dispensaries, but 28 others are still expected to open on time

Six of the approved recreational pot dispensaries won’t open on Jan. 1 (Credit: iStock)
Six of the approved recreational pot dispensaries won’t open on Jan. 1 (Credit: iStock)

On New Year’s Day, 28 recreational marijuana dispensaries plan to open across Illinois, but another six that received approval will not open due to construction, permitting or other issues.

Dispensary operators only had about six months to prepare after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the recreational cannabis law last summer, prompting concerns that they may not be ready for the Jan. 1 sales kickoff.

Of the state’s 55 medical marijuana dispensaries — all of which were able to apply to also sell recreational pot — 37 have been approved to do so. Others chose not to apply, and three that won state approval won’t be able to participate because their municipalities, like Naperville and Arlington Heights, opted out of recreational sales.

Zoning issues and construction have slowed the process. Dispensaries like Clinic Effingham are waiting on a special-use permit hearing and others like Sunnyside Buffalo Grove are rebranding as they convert from being a medical-only shop, the Tribune reported.

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Many of the existing medical marijuana dispensaries are too small to accomodate the volume of customers and sales expected to be generated by recreational sales. Some of them including Maribis of Springfield and Maribis of Chicago are making changes to handle more traffic, like adding cash registers or expanding the shop space.

Others are holding off until more product is available, given the expected shortages in the early days of recreational sales.

In Chicago, only $3.5 million in tax revenues is expected to be generated from recreational marijuana in 2020 due to state legislation preventing municipalities from collecting taxes until next September.

A handful of dispensary operators were interested in setting up shop on North Michigan Avenue and other high-profile Chicago retail strips, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s cannabis zoning ordinance limits recreational sales to seven zones, each with an initial cap of seven dispensaries. The zones exclude part of the Central Business District, including the Loop and the Magnificent Mile. At least three operators are looking to open dispensaries in River North, not far from the Mag Mile.

[Tribune] ⁠— Brianna Kelly