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CHICAGO – The first year of legal recreational marijuana in Illinois has been filled with long lines, huge sales and continued questions about equity.

On Jan. 1, 2020, recreational marijuana sales became legal in the state. A lot has changed since then, but sales are booming amid the pandemic and could reach $1 billion this year.

Wednesday, Zen Leaf cut a ribbon on its latest dispensary in Prospect Heights.

“The mindsets around cannabis are rapidly changing,” Assistant GM Sandy Fudal said.

Business is rapidly growing too at Cresco Labs’ Sunnyside dispensaries.

“We’re tripling our size here because of the demand in Chicago,” said spokesperson Jason Erkes. “It’s not people buying bigger quantities, it’s new consumers, to help them deal with what’s going on.”

But heading into the new year there are still unresolved issues when it comes to social equity. Complaints continue that Black and Brown communities are being locked out of ownership.
And because of the pandemic, the expungement process has taken a hit. There have not been any expungement public hearings since March.

“I just want people to be encouraged and don’t be afraid to take that first step,” attorney Brandon Williams said. “Get these cannabis convictions off their records so they can have a better opportunity for employment and housing.”

As for automatic expungement, Illinois State Police have a deadline of Jan. 1 to identify the cases from 2013 and later that qualify.