Public officials, they’re (sometimes) just like us!
Hundreds of customers poured into Sunnyside Lakeview dispensary in Chicago on Wednesday, the first day recreational marijuana could be legally purchased in Illinois. Among that number was the state’s lieutenant governor, Juliana Stratton, who was there to tout the new marijuana law’s emphasis on equity—as well as purchase some goodies.
From WBEZ Chicago:
“We believe the social equity aspects of this legislation should be a model for the entire country,” she said, standing outside of the store holding a bag of clementine gummy edibles. “Yesterday, Governor Pritzker pardoned 11,017 low-level cannabis arrests and convictions. That’s just the beginning. We have hundreds of thousands more who will be eligible for having their records expunged. That’s a big deal.”
The Sunnyside dispensary was among the first in the state to open, and according to WBEZ, an estimated 300 hundred people had already lined up outside the shop’s doors by 6 am.
Illinois is now one of 11 states, including Washington D.C., that have legalized recreational weed. But as other states, including New York, Virginia, Florida and Minnesota, mull similar legislation, Illinois hopes to make its marijuana reforms stand out through its commitment to equity.
Legal marijuana sales in the state have been preceded by the expungement of tens of thousands of nonviolent possession convictions over the last month, with more to come. The new law also comes with social equity measures that aim to make it easier for people from communities disproportionately impacted by the “war on drugs” (read: black and brown neighborhoods) to get approval and funding to start cannabis businesses. Stratton emphasized those efforts in a tweet posted Wednesday afternoon; her public support of the laws a clear marker of just how popular marijuana reform efforts have become in the state and the country at large.
But, the Chicago Reporter notes, Chicago City Council’s Black Caucus tried to push legal marijuana sales back six months because they said the new laws didn’t go far enough in ensuring black and brown residents get a fair shot at joining the nascent cannabis industry.
Currently, 10 Chicago dispensaries are allowed to sell recreational weed, most of which are on the city’s North Side, and all of which were previously medicinal marijuana dispensaries, WBEZ reports.
There are still limits to recreational marijuana use in the state—people still can’t consume cannabis in public, for example (in Chicago, violating these laws could warrant a $50 ticket for a first offense, and $100 ticket for subsequent violations). According to city officials, Chicago police are expected to educate people caught breaking the new laws, rather than ticket them, over the next few weeks.