First 5 Illinois Recreational Cannabis Stores Get OK, But Potential Conflict Emerges

llinois is expected to license dozens more dispensaries in the weeks ahead

The law legalizing recreational pot has been criticized for giving a huge head start to existing medical dispensaries with deep-pocketed investors, but lawmakers said that was necessary to meet demand come Jan. 1.

But now some current pot operators could find themselves in a Catch-22, and they say Gov. J.B. Pritzker has not made it clear whether he will let them keep their advantage.

The problem comes for medical clinics located in towns or cities that choose to prohibit sales for recreational use, which the law allows. The clinics say they were told by state officials in that situation they could move to a more weed-friendly area and still obtain a license to sell both recreational and medical marijuana.

But in recent weeks state officials in the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation have told operators that clinics that choose to move won’t be given a recreational license. That means potentially no matter where they wind up they won’t be able to sell recreational pot — while other existing clinics will be able to. The apparent new interpretation of the law by the state could potentially cost some clinics thousands or even millions of dollars.

That is why it was somewhat curious that the state announced Thursday it had granted five licenses to sell recreational pot to existing medical clinics, including the 3C Compassionate Care Centers in Joliet and Naperville; The Clinic Effingham; The Clinic Mundelein and Saveo Health & Wellness in Canton.

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