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Illinois marijuana retailers in potential $2B market expect long lines, possible supply shortages as adult-use sales kick off Jan. 1


llinois cannabis retailers are thrilled at the prospect of large crowds of customers and high demand at 6 a.m. CT New Year’s Day, which is when state lawmakers said several stores can begin adult-use recreational sales.

Anticipating long lines and cold temperatures, companies are going the extra mile to keep customers happy.

One business, for example, has rented a nearby coffee shop to keep people warm and fed, while another has arranged for food trucks and heat lamps.

Businesses also are stocking up on various products to alleviate potential shortages and bracing for possible technical glitches with the state’s track-and-trace software system.

It is estimated that Illinois recreational program could generate up to $2.5 billion a year depending in part on how many tourists buy cannabis products.

Consider the following:

1) In June, Illinois became the first state in the country to legalize retail sales through its Legislature and the 11th overall to approve adult use.

2) The shift to allow recreational marijuana sales in Illinois is likely to result in an immediate sales boom, and some cannabis operators report they expect as much as a tenfold spike.

3) At least 33 retailers are set to launch adult-use sales, according to a tally by the Chicago Tribune. More might open since state regulators are issuing approvals for existing medical marijuana shops to sell recreational cannabis on a rolling basis.

4) As of Dec. 19, a total of 37 storefronts had received state authorization, but several of those are located in municipalities that haven’t signed off on rec sales.

Keeping first-day customers happy

No doubt that unexpected challenges will appear, such as the potential for computer software problems with BioTrackTHC’s state track-and-trace system, which is an issue that at least one Illinois retailer said he’s worried about.

As for other possible speed bumps around the launch, some retailers that are going to serve recreational marijuana customers on New Year’s have:

Stocked up on inventory and beefed up staff.

Worked out logistical plans for things such as online customer orders and overflow parking.

Brainstormed ideas to keep customers happy while they wait outside in perhaps frigid temperatures.

Heat lamps and doughnuts

One of the biggest challenges Illinois adult-use marijuana retailers might face on Jan. 1 is how they will manage to move customers into shops quickly enough that they don’t lose patience with long lines and the winter cold.

That’s why Cresco Labs has rented out an entire coffee shop, Uncommon Ground, which is near the company’s dispensary on Chicago’s north side.

Purchase limits probable

One of the likely eventualities – and one that some retailers are planning on – is a shortage of available product.

That’s because growers had only six months to ramp up production as much as possible, and there’s still a sizable medical marijuana patient population to keep up with.

The answer for retailers is almost certain to be limits on how much customers will be allowed to buy on Jan. 1.

There are going to be plenty of other logistical hurdles, operators said, and they’re going to adapt on the big day.

But Cole Peterson, strategic services officer for BioTrackTHC’s parent company, Colorado-based Helix TCS, dismissed that notion as “rumors flying a lot that we wouldn’t be ready to go.”

The bottom line at this point, GTI’s Blume said is: “We’ve been planning this for the last six months. We feel ready and prepared.

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