CHICAGO – The medical marijuana dispensary in Naperville snagged one of the first state licenses issued to sell recreational pot, creating expectations of a steady flow of new customers when sales start on Jan. 1.
But the dispensary’s plans were shelved just five days later when the Naperville City Council voted to prohibit recreational sales in the city.
What happened in Naperville made real an ongoing concern for many Illinois cannabis operators who are increasingly uncertain about their ability to launch by New Year’s Day because of both rules that exist and those yet to be made.
Marijuana companies say they want to play by the book, but the book hasn’t been fully written as a host of administrative rules over recreational pot have yet to even be proposed.
“There will be a lot of dispensaries not ready,” said Gorgi Naumovski, CEO of Thrive Dispensary, which has two downstate locations. “We’re all in the dark.”
When Gov. J. B. Pritzker signed the legislation to legalize recreational marijuana June 25, it started a 180-day clock for various state agencies to propose and adopt administrative rules that will help regulate the nascent industry. That deadline falls just days before legal sales of weed are supposed to begin.
A half-dozen state agencies have authority to propose rules on issues such as oversight for growers, recordkeeping for retailers, documentation of taxable income and a loan program to help “social equity applicants” obtain capital to start a cannabis business.
So far, none of those proposed rules have been published by the secretary of state’s office, the first step in an approval process that can take anywhere from 90 days to a year to complete. That, in addition to local decisions on whether to allow recreational sales, has created a fair amount of uncertainty for the industry.
Despite that, the Pritzker administration said it sees no issues for an on-time startup to recreational sales, while acknowledging the law is designed to allow for a gradual ramp up and wasn’t expected to immediately replace the black market for pot.
“From everything that we’ve seen, everything looks to be on track to make sure that we have a very robust rollout on Jan. 1,” said Deputy Gov. Christian Mitchell, Pritzker’s point man on marijuana legalization.
Many of the questions the industry is raising are answered in the law…