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Dozens of dispensaries in the land of Lincoln handled approximately 77,128 transactions on Wednesday, marking a “monumental milestone” for the state, Toi Hutchinson, senior adviser to Governor J.B. Pritzker on cannabis control, said in a news conference Thursday.
Illinois is the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana for people 21 and older. By comparison, neighboring Michigan, which did so starting Dec. 1, generated $3.1 million in the first two weeks of sales. Day One sales in Colorado, the first state to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, were over $1 million on Jan. 1, 2014.
Some of the Illinois revenue is earmarked for neighborhood development grants under the law, and low-level marijuana convictions will be expunged. Pritzker granted more than 11,000 such pardons Tuesday.
"The amazing thing about that is that there's a significant portion of these dollars that go directly into this community reinvestment fund, so we can continue to rebuild communities that have been hardest hit by the war on drugs," Hutchinson said. "Sales are great, but let's never lose sight of the impact that we're having on families around this state."
By 2022, sales in Illinois are projected to generate $250 million for the state, according to earlier estimates.
Thursday also marked the deadline for the next round of applications for more than 70 dispensaries that will be licensed come May 1, Hutchinson said.
“We are moving towards Phase Two and our plans to grow this industry," added Hutchinson. "This is really close to my heart because I am one of the moms that drafted this and I feel very, very deeply committed to expanding opportunities for those most impacted by the war on drugs."
Recreational marijuana users were delighted by the developments, too, with customers showing up at dispensaries in droves and some lining up outside hours before they even opened.
While Illinois already allowed medical marijuana, its new law permits anyone 21 or older to possess up to 30 grams (1.06 ounces) of cannabis flower and up to 5 grams (0.17 ounces) of cannabis concentrate.
When they crafted the measure, state lawmakers said they wanted to repair some of the damage caused by law enforcement’s decades-long efforts to combat the sale and use of the drug, particularly in minority communities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.