Nearly $3.2 million spent on marijuana on first day of recreational sales
Illegally parked cars and traffic were the biggest issues police departments reported Thursday as crowds continued to form outside three suburban dispensaries selling recreational marijuana.
More than 77,000 people spent nearly $3.2 million on newly legal cannabis products on Jan. 1, packing dispensaries in Mundelein, North Aurora, Addison and 31 other sites across the state.
They spent an average of $42 on cannabis flower, concentrates, vapes and edibles, all made available through the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, and they brought an average of $94,000 in sales to each dispensary.
But they also brought their cars and, in some cases, parked them in the wrong places, police said.
Officers in Addison issued 47 parking tickets Wednesday in the industrial park north of North Avenue where the EarthMed dispensary opened at 10 a.m., Chief Timothy "Bill" Hayden said. Then on Thursday, officers continued patrolling and issuing citations, while an electronic sign warned that illegally parked cars could be ticketed or towed.
The parking ticket count totaled 24 Wednesday in Mundelein, where Rise Mundelein was the first store in the region to begin recreational sales, starting at 6 a.m., Chief Eric Guenther said.
Cars were parked on both sides of the streets throughout the industrial park where Rise is located south of Townline Road, and that would have been a problem for truck access had other businesses not been closed for the New Year's holiday, Guenther said. Officers have posted "No Parking" signs on one side of each street in the development.
Guenther said he already has been in contact with Rise leaders about forming a better long-term parking plan.
"The site is very small and was not equipped for that amount of people," he said.
In North Aurora, Deputy Chief Scott Buziecki said, no parking tickets were issued and the scene, though bustling, was "nothing unlike at any other busy business."
Police are asking customers of the Verilife dispensary on Route 31 not to park at nearby businesses but to use one of three village parking lots within walking distance north of the store.
Despite lines in the hundreds at each of the suburban shops selling recreational marijuana, police said they had no issues on the first day of sales with customers using their new products in public, which remains against the law, or with crashes or criminal behavior.
"Everyone behaved," Hayden said. "It was just the excitement of the first day. I think it's going to wear off pretty quick."
The lines Thursday at the Addison dispensary weren't as long as the lines the day before. But roughly 200 people were waiting for recreational sales when doors opened at 11 a.m. while another dozen waited at a separate entrance for medical marijuana sales.
"I drove by here a few times yesterday, but the line was just too long to stop," said Palatine resident Justin Myers. "This line is way more reasonable today and it should only take us about a half-hour more until we're in there. People just don't know how popular weed is."
Cedrick Lewis of Bellwood also tried to buy yesterday but was turned off by the long lines. He's not a fan of the Addison dispensary's location in an industrial park.
"Hopefully they can get these into a storefront soon," he said. "If you can go buy liquor at a store next to a restaurant or other retail businesses like that, why can't you with marijuana? I bet that will change, though."
The deadline to apply for the next round of dispensary licenses also came Thursday, the state's pot czar, Toi Hutchinson, noted during a news conference announcing first-day sales figures. She said 75 more licenses will be issued for recreational-use-only dispensaries.
Minority applicants will receive preferential consideration in this round of licensing. Hutchinson also noted the work the state is doing to vacate low-level marijuana possession charges.
"Sales are great, but let's never lose sight of the impact that we're having on families around the state," she said. "Earlier this week, the governor expunged 11,017 cannabis misdemeanor records, and there's many, many more to come."
The sales figures officials released Thursday don't yet include how much of the first-day revenue was sales and how much was cannabis taxes. The state's 6.25% sales tax is applied to all recreational marijuana products, but the separate cannabis rates vary depending on potency, ranging between 10% and 25%.
Municipalities that allow recreational dispensaries also charge taxes on the products.
Illinois' first-day sales topped the sales Michigan dispensaries achieved in two weeks, according to a story on the Advance Local Media website MLive.com. In Michigan, however, most of the 16 licensed dispensaries did not begin sales on the first possible day.