Long lines, high demand expected on first day of legal marijuana in Illinois

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The countdown is almost over to legal recreational marijuana in Illinois, but are the dispensaries ready for Wednesday's crowds and the demand.

Long lines are expected at about three dozen dispensaries statewide as many open their doors to recreational customers at 6 a.m.

RELATED: Illinois Weed Legalization Guide

The big unknown is as Illinois rings in a new year is whether or not there will be enough supply.

With 3,000 square feet, 18 TV menu boards, and 2 new ATM's, Illinois' biggest dispensary, The Herbal Care Center, is now even larger as the medical marijuana company is ready to open its doors to recreational customers.

RELATED: Illinois Weed Legalization Guide: Will your city or town sell marijuana?

"I'm confident our team, our staff is prepared as anybody in the state right now," said THC Center Dispensary manager Michael Mandera. "We have the size, the capacity we are ready to go."

Anticipating long lines beginning at midnight, the THC Center will open bright and early, and plans to provide hot chocolate and coffee in heated tents for waiting customers, as well as provide valet parking.

Dispensary 33 in Andersonville is also trying to make the experience comfortable for its customers by teaming up with local businesses to provide food for those waiting. Several suburban dispensaries will have entertainment and music for their new customers.

The big concern isn't just for those looking to indulge in the new pastime, but more so for those who have been relying on cannabis for medical purposes.

Medical marijuana patients have been stocking up this week in fear of a shortage of supply. While dispensaries are mandated by state law to hold enough product for medical users, they are hoping there will be enough for recreational customers.

RELATED: Illinois medical marijuana dispensaries issued licenses to sell weed, including 10 in Chicago

"It's hard to tell right now," Mandera said, "we are continuing to work hard with our growers to make sure our supply is there. We are stock piled as heavily as we could."

Illinois Cannabis Czar Toi Hutchinson said she will be keeping a close eye on the situation tomorrow. She said the state made sure cultivators boosted their capacity to prepare, but did acknowledge that a shortage is possible.

"This is just the beginning of what the legalization roll out is going to be and we anticipate we will work through the glitches in the system as they happen," Hutchinson said.

Watching and monitoring the first day of legal marijuana is the best the state can do, she added.

Applications for 75 new licenses that the state plans to award by May 1 are due January 2.
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