CHICAGO — Less than a month into Illinois' rollout of recreational marijuana, some worry severe supply shortages will affect patients who use cannabis as a medical treatment.
Experts say supply shortages could go on for months, a frustrating situation for medical marijuana patients who say they can’t find what they’re looking for.
At Sunnyside Dispensary in Lakeview Monday, customers were told there was a two-hour wait to buy recreational cannabis.
Outside, Army veteran Drew Krause said his time in the service resulted in chronic pain and insomnia. Now a medical marijuana card holder, he says it’s frustrating that supplies are so scarce.
“I was trying to get some flower, but they’re completely out,” Krause said. “I think that it was set up really poorly, but I think once the state figures out how to get their [expletive] together, it’ll be fine."
Industry experts say it takes about 16 weeks to grow, harvest, dry and package cannabis products.
Cannabis Business Association of Illinois Executive Director Pamela Althoff said the reason for the shortage is that the state has only 21 cultivation sites, which were originally built for a medical pilot program.
“It’s not a widget, it’s a crop,” Althoff said.
The new law made that program permanent and expanded the number of medical conditions for which cannabis could be used as treatment. Add to that off-the-charts demand for recreational weed, and she says the state was bound to run into supply issues.
“We had somewhat of a perfect storm where demand significantly increased on what we had originally anticipated – and then the short time frame to get ready for that January 1 rollout,” Althoff said.
In fact, the problem was anticipated by cultivators like Cresco Labs in Joliet, where company officials told us a shortage would happen a week before recreational sales started.
“There’s no way to meet the demand of that kind of intensity when something launches,” Cresco Labs spokesman Jason Erkes said at the time.
So less than a month into recreational sales, dispensaries like MOCA in Logan Square are restricting sales, posting signs letting customers know there are no recreational sales today.
Alfredo Ortiz says he uses medical cannabis for chronic pain, arthritis, anxiety and panic attacks
“It relaxes your pain, and not only your pain, it smooths your anxiety," Ortiz said.
He says he’s worried that the state won’t keep its promise to ensure he gets the marijuana needed to treat his conditions.
“They should have had everything done right before they opened it and announced it and everything," Ortiz said.
This summer, the state will issue 40 more licenses cultivation centers. But even then it will take months to grow crops, package marijuana, and deliver it to dispensaries.