In less than a month, adults 21 and older will be able to legally buy and use cannabis in Illinois.

While the number of locations where consumers will be able to buy cannabis products will be limited, the first phase of the rollout begins Jan. 1.

State officials have approved 29 medical cannabis dispensaries to sell recreational cannabis starting Jan. 1. Adults will be able to buy and carry up to 30 grams of cannabis flower. There are lesser amounts allowed for edibles and oils. With limited supplies expected, the law requires retailers to keep a 30-day supply in reserve for medical users.

Tax rates on cannabis products vary depending on the potency and local tax rates, but it could top 40 percent in some places.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said more licenses will be awarded a few months after the first round.

“We just want to make sure we have the industry locked down, we know what we’re doing, we’re keeping kids away from it, and so on,” Pritzker said.

The first retailers will be existing medical dispensaries. Pritzker said those are owned mainly by white men, but the second round of licenses will be more diverse. Pritzker’s cannabis control point person, Toi Hutchinson, said the second round will focus on social equity.

“We’re not the first state to do it, we’re the eleventh state to do it, but one of the things we’ve seen when you open the barn doors really, really wide is it’s very difficult for anybody else to break in,” Hutchinson said. “So we’re being very thoughtful and intentional and conscious of those aspects.”

“In the coming months, new applicants, including social equity applicants, will have the opportunity to apply for an additional 75 adult-use cannabis licenses,” the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation said in a statement. “Social equity applicants are eligible for additional points on their application and for technical assistance, low-interest loans and fee reductions.”

A disparity study will be done after the second round of approved cannabis retailers and growers.

“It’s a slow rollout,” Hutchinson said. “We’re actually watching the way the industry is going to go and that’s very purposeful," Hutchinson said. “One of the biggest goals we had in this was the equity component. We want to make sure that the industry looks like the state of Illinois at some point.”

Hutchinson said legislation awaiting the governor’s action put the final pieces in place legalizing cannabis.

“It’s specific to having as smooth of a rollout by Jan. 1 as we possibly can so all the agencies know what they are supposed to do and we can start the public education for the public to know what they can do as well.”

Illinois State Police District 9 Commander Lt. J.W. Price said work is still needed for police to be able to quickly and accurately detect cannabis impairment.

“We do have physical things we can do with field sobriety tests that can determine your impaired ability, but if you're talking checking like you would a breath test for alcohol, that doesn’t exist currently, but it will and we’re still working through that process right now before January,” he said.

Some in law enforcement groups opposed recreational cannabis use, mainly because of the difficulty in detecting impairment.

Employers will still be allowed to have zero-tolerance policies for cannabis. Public consumption is prohibited except where allowed by law.

In Mundelein, The Clinic Mundelein was approved for recreational sales. 3C Compassionate Care Center has been approved for two locations, one in Joliet and one in Naperville. The Clinic Effingham also was approved along with Salveo Health and Wellness Dispensary in Canton.

Phoenix Botanical Dispensary in Champaign will be allowed to sell recreational cannabis as will PDI Medical Dispensary in Buffalo Grove, FloraMedex in Elmwood Park and Maribis of Springfield in Grandview. Verilife has several locations approved for retail sales, including North Aurora, Arlington Heights, Ottawa, Romeoville and Evanston.

New Age Care in Mt. Prospect has been approved as has Harbory in Marion. HCI Alternatives has a location in Collinsville and Springfield that were approved for adult-use retail sales. Nature’s Treatment in Milan, Herbal Remedies Dispensary in Quincy and EarthMed in Addison have also been approved. Rockford will have two cannabis retailers come Jan. 1 with MedMar and Megleglen Care Center. Chicago will have six dispensaries: MedMar, Dispensary33, Maribis, MOCA Modern Cannabis, Columbia Care and Mission Illinois.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.