By Maria Maxham
Whether Forest Park will be home to a recreational marijuana dispensary will take a little longer to be determined. Despite at least one investor interested in opening shop in town, it is unknown when licenses will be awarded.
Although originally planned for May 1, the awarding of 75 new recreational marijuana dispensary licenses to Illinois investors has been delayed due to COVID-19.
On April 29, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) released a statement addressing the delay. The statement said that the issuing of licenses will be suspended for the duration of the state’s disaster proclamation or until the IDFPR announces a new date for awarding licenses.
“IDFPR will provide a public notice announcing the new date when licenses will be issued and will seek to do so as soon as feasible,” said the statement.
According to Toi Hutchinson, senior advisor for Cannabis Control, “The Pritzker administration remains committed to creating a legal cannabis industry that reflects the diversity of Illinois residents. We recognize that countless entrepreneurs were looking forward to May 1 and the next step it represented for Illinois’ adult-use cannabis industry. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays in the application review process. This executive order will help ensure that we continue to build out this industry in a deliberate and equity-centric manner.”
The new adult-use dispensary licenses represent the first opportunity for those not already operating medical marijuana dispensaries to enter the market. Recreational marijuana was legalized in the state on Jan. 1, at which time licenses were given to some medical marijuana dispensaries who wanted to also sell recreational products.
According to the Chicago Tribune, in the first three months of sales this year, $100.2 million was spent on legal weed. Investors hoping to get in on the burgeoning market will have to wait a little longer, however.
Due to the current pandemic, recreational dispensaries already open have been forced to change the way they operate. Med Men in Oak Park, for example, is no longer open to in-person shopping for recreational pot. Instead, customers can shop online and then pick up their product at the store via curbside pickup.
Illinois also recently pushed back application deadlines for other recreational marijuana-related businesses, such as craft growers, which many dispensaries were anxiously awaiting. Since all marijuana sold in Illinois must be grown here, shortages in some products have occurred. The deadline for businesses wishing to cultivate was pushed back until the end of April, and although the plan was to award them in July, it’s unknown at this point whether that will be delayed as well.