Chicago aldermen call for delay in legal weed sales, as growers ramp up production

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CHICAGO — A City Council committee is calling for Chicago to put the breaks on recreational marijuana sales, as growers ramp up production ahead of legalization.

Experts expect demand to be high when the sale of marijuana for recreational use becomes legal in Illinois on January 1. But since it's still prohibited on the federal level, all products have to be grown at one of 16 cultivation centers across the state.

After the product is processed and shipped, it will be sold at a licensed dispensaries across the state in the start of 2020. However, a measure passed Tuesday by the Committee on Contracting Oversight and Equity would postpone the sale of cannabis for recreational use in Chicago until July.

In a statement endorsing the measure, the Aldermanic Black Caucus said they want to make sure African Americans are given a fair opportunity to apply for dispensary licenses. The full City Council will vote on the ordinance Wednesday.

“What we have seen here today is one step in the right direction. We are going to continue to work together and push for equity," the statement said.

State lawmakers are also warning there will be challenges and possible shortages when the law changes to allow recreational cannabis use along with medical marijuana.

The governor’s office is reportedly actively monitoring supplies, and dispensaries are legally obligated to make sure medical patients receive their products before recreational users.

“Listen, whenever there’s something new, whether it’s Air Jordans or a Starbucks on Michigan Avenue, there’s lines, and there’s no way to meet the demand when there’s that kind of intensity," Cresco Labs spokesman Jason Erkes said. "I do think at the beginning there will be some product shortages."

Cresco Labs Senior Vice President Of Production Jason Nelson says they've increased production of everything from pre-rolled joints to edibles, and they are expanding facilities in Joliet, Kankakee and Lincoln. They expect a rise in supply to hit the market in the spring.

“It’s in the ballpark of a ten-fold increase of biomass, a very large expansion. That starts with the cultivation expansion – the flower itself," Nelson said.

In their facility in Joliet, Cresco Labs controls the entire process of turning a plant into pot, from growing the cannabis to packaging gummies and shipping them out.

“It’s not a couple of guys in a room growing cannabis. It’s a high scale, professional production operation," Erkes said.

Nelson was in Colorado when cannabis consumption was legalized, and says he expects a similar high level of interest at the beginning.

“We’ll see on Jan. 1, but I certainly remember in Denver when we launched there were lines out the door – product shortages for a few weeks, while they got up to speed," Nelson said.

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