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Recreational Marijuana Goes on Sale Jan. 1st in Illinois



When marijuana dispensaries open their doors for recreational sales in Illinois on Jan. 1, customers will walk into a shopping experience more akin to a Walgreens or Apple store than a stereotypical pot shop.

Many companies have remade medical marijuana dispensaries to be bright, technology-driven and streamlined. Here’s what you need to know before you head to a dispensary on Jan. 1.

The state is approving applications from existing dispensaries on a rolling basis, but if a municipality votes down recreational sales, the state approval is moot. Residents of communities such as Naperville, Arlington Heights, and downstate Marion, for example, will have to go to a different town to legally buy weed.

Illinois has yet to start awarding licenses to stores that weren’t already selling medical marijuana.

Marijuana flower — the buds that can be smoked — typically is the most popular item among recreational consumers, partially because it’s familiar and people know what to do with it.

There are also edible chocolates, cookies and gummies, cannabis-infused patches and rubs for sore muscles, tinctures that can be dropped under the tongue and concentrates in various forms.

Illinois dispensaries are expected to sell dozens of different products at the beginning of recreational sales. In the first full year of recreational sales, flower is expected to make up 55% of sales, edibles to comprise 22% and concentrates 20%, according to data from Chicago-based cannabis research firm Brightfield Group

Only people 21 and older are allowed to buy marijuana. Customers will be required to show their ID before entering a store.

The law allows possession of 30 grams or about 1 ounce of flower, which is about as much as an adult can hold in cupped hands. Adults also can have 5 grams of cannabis concentrate for vaping, or 500 milligrams of the psychoactive ingredient THC in cannabis-infused products.

Stores won’t be able to sell more than the legal limit in a single transaction, said Chris Slaby, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

It’s up to individual consumers to make sure they don’t posses more weed than allowed, but there’s nothing to stop them from shopping at multiple dispensaries.

However, most stores expect the supply of marijuana products to run low during the first six months or so of sales. If that occurs, retailers might limit how much recreational customers can buy, or sell only to medical patients.

Visitors, or those with out-of-state IDs, may possess up to 15 grams of marijuana.

It must be kept in a sealed container and inaccessible while driving. It’s illegal to take marijuana across state lines, so it must be consumed before leaving Illinois. Using weed in a car or plane is banned.

Most dispensaries only accept cash. Marijuana is still federally illegal, which means most banks don’t work with companies in the industry. The same goes for credit card companies and payment processors. Many dispensaries have on-site ATMs, and some have payment systems that accept debit or ATM cards.

Marijuana prices can vary, depending on the product and its potency.

With medical marijuana sales, the average transaction at Mission South Shore dispensary in the South Chicago neighborhood is about $80, said general manager Rick Armstrong. At Midway Dispensary near the airport, a customer could get a 10-pack of cannabis-infused gummies, or a couple of pre-rolled, ready-to-smoke joints for $20 to $30.

Taxes vary by product and by THC content, which is displayed on packaging. Marijuana-infused products will be taxed at 20%. All other marijuana with 35% THC or less will be taxed at 10%, and marijuana with THC content higher than 35% will be taxed at 25%.

That’s in addition to standard state and local sales taxes. Municipalities also can collect up to 3% in marijuana taxes, and many, including Deerfield and Buffalo Grove, have decided to do so.