By Frederick H. Lowe
Legal weed went on sale Wednesday in Illinois, but blacks were buyers not sellers in a market controlled by white men.
All of the state’s cannabis dispensaries were licensed to white-owned companies to sell recreational marijuana, a product whose sales’ upside is high and lucrative at this time.
Pot heads stood in long lines in freezing weather, wearing warm coats, hats, and gloves to buy recreational marijuana in the state when it became legal New Year’s Day.
The weather was Chicago cold, but first day sales were hot. The dispensaries opened their doors at 6 a.m. for the cash-only business.
Illinois officials reported that first day sales reached nearly $3.2 million from 77,128 transactions. Thirty-seven marijuana dispensaries are licensed throughout the state, including 24 in the Chicago area.
There also were reports that some dispensaries were running out of marijuana products because of strong demand.
A survey commissioned by state lawmakers reported that nearly 946,000 Illinois residents or more than nine percent of individuals over 21 could become cannabis users.
Some members of Chicago’s Black Aldermanic Caucus sought to delay sales of recreational marijuana until July 1 so nonwhite and women-owned companies could be licensed to own some of the dispensaries.
Alderman Jason Ervin, chairman of the Black Caucus, said members were concerned about the lack of minority members.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, however, quashed plans to delay recreational sales when she and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said they would not back the delay.
The state, however, passed legislation that legalization of cannabis creates opportunity for equity and diversification in the industry for communities most-harmed by the failed War on Drugs.
Wednesday was the deadline for social-equity applicants to file cannabis license applications.
Approved applicants will pay lower licensing fees, and they will receive technical assistance. By May 2020, the state plans to approve 75 more applicants to meet demand and lower prices.
Initial purchasers on Wednesday suffered sticker shock because of the high prices, reported the publication High Times.
On Tuesday, Gov. Pritzker announced pardons that will expunge 11,017 misdemeanor convictions for marijuana offenses involving the possession or sale of less than 30 grams.
Earlier, Kimberly Foxx, Cook County, Illinois States’ Attorney, also moved to vacate 1,000 non-violent marijuana convictions within the county.
Illinois is the 11th state to legalize cannabis. State residents 21 and older with a valid state ID or driver’s license can purchase up to 30 grams of cannabis flower, five grams of concentrate and 500 milligrams THC edibles.
It is illegal smoke pot in public or while driving a motor vehicle.