Questions about cannabis legalization in Illinois and how pharmacies should prepare.It’s official: recreational marijuana is legal in Illinois. While patients in Illinois suffering from select medical conditions, such as ALS, AIDS, cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma and more have been able to purchasemarijuana legally since 2013, most Illinois residents who don’t hold a Medical Cannabis Registry Card have been out of luck, that is, until now. Efforts to legalize recreational marijuana consumption have been in the works in Illinois since before 2017. A 2018 referendum in Illinois’ most populous county showed that 68% of residents were in favor oflegalizing recreational cannabis, despite then Governor Rauner’s staunch opposition. Governor Rauner did, however, sign the Illinois Industrial Hemp Act (Senate Bill 2298) into law before leaving office in 2018, which legalized the cultivation of hemp in Illinois, and removed some of the ambiguities around the legality of hemp-derived CBD oil. This was followed closely by the passing of HB 1438: Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act in May 2019, which was signed into law a month later by Governor Pritzker, making Illinois the 11th state to legalize recreational cannabis use. So what does that mean for you? Read on to find the answers of some of the most frequently asked questions regarding cannabis legalization in Illinois. How soon can I legally buy weed in Illinois? Technically, January 1, 2020 is the big day for those wishing to purchase legal recreational weed in Illinois. However, even though legalization would take hold on Jan. 1, 2020, consumers might have to wait a bit longer for the government to issue recreational licenses to dispensaries. Many of these licenses might not be issued until May or June of 2020. The first legal points of sales will be medical cannabis dispensaries that are already in operation and apply for an Early Approval Adult Use Dispensing Organization License. After that, up to 75 additional licenses will be assigned to new dispensaries. The new licenses have been allocated to specific geographic areas with the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin area receiving 47 and the St. Louis area receiving 4. However, some municipalities have already opted out of hosting dispensaries altogether, so Illinois residents hoping to purchase marijuana in those areas will have to travel farther afield. How much marijuana can I legally posses in Illinois? After January 1, 2020, adults residents of Illinois 21 years and older can have up to 30 grams of cannabis flower, 500 mg of THC in cannabis infused products, or 5 grams of cannabis concentrate in their possession at any one time. Non-Illinois residents can have half these amounts. In addition, registered adult patients in the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program can grow up to five plants over five inches tall. How much money will Illinois make from legalizing cannabis? Prior to the passage of Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act lawmakers and think tanks estimated that the tax revenue from cannabis sales in Illinois will be around $440 to $676 million per year. Annual tax revenue from marijuana sales in Colorado and Washington, two of the earliest states to legalize recreational marijuana, hovered around $266 and $384 million respectively in 2018. In addition to taxes, Illinois will also collect a substantial amount in fees from organizations seeking a license to sell cannabis in the state of Illiniois. These fees include an application fee, a license fee, agent identification cards, a portion of all sales earned in the first year, plus a donation to the Cannabis Business Development Fund or another approved social equity program. Altogether, these fees could approach $300,000 for some organizations. Finally, a significant portion of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act deals with the expungement of approximately 780,000 criminal convictions for possessing small amounts of marijuana. That means, many Illinois residents who struggled to find housing or jobs due to negative criminal background checks will find it easier to go back to work. Illinois will also spend significantly less money pursuing cases against low level drug offenders, which some say will result in cost savings for the state. How can independent pharmacies and dispensaries prepare for the legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois? The legalization of marijuana in Illinois will likely increase demand for a variety of cannabis-related products, both due to the de-stigmatization of cannabis consumption in the state and increased access to marijuana derived products. Businesses that do not hold a a license as a recreational dispensary can still profit off of this increased demand by selling related products that do not need a license, such as hemp-derived CBD oil, vape pen cartridges, and marijuana packaging supplies, such as child-resistant vials and other tamper-proof containers that will keep marijuana products fresh and secure after purchase. For existing dispensaries who are expecting a large increase in demand for their products, The Vial Store offers bulk pricing on a wide array of packaging solutions that meet state requirements for the safe packaging of cannabis derived products according to section 55-21 of Illinois HB1438. Click here to shop our selection of child-resistant containers, odor-proof exit bags, and more today.