New Chicago marijuana dispensaries will have to wait for licenses, medical dispensaries will sell pot first

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's first recreational marijuana stores will be open for business in 2020, but if you're not an established medical dispensary it will be more difficult to get in the game.

While recreational pot will be legal on January 1, you won't just be able to open a new business. To get the program up and running by the new year, the state is giving existing medical dispensaries, like Cresco labs, the first licenses for recreational sales.

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"I think what consumers can expect January 1st is all medical dispensaries around the state will be dual purpose medical and adult-use dispensaries, will be fully operational," said Jason Erkes, Cresco Labs.

Because Chicago will be the state's most lucrative market, the city announced a November 15 lottery for medical license holders to select their recreational dispensary location.

"The city set up a process that has specific districts with a cap of how many dispensaries can be in the district," Erkes said. "I think what they are trying to do with this process is make sure they are spread evenly throughout the city."

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This means medical dispensaries have a leg up on competition seeking to enter the market. Scott Weiner has been in the restaurant business in Chicago for several years. His company Fifty/50 owns a group of restaurants and bars in some prime locations. He is hoping to expand into recreational marijuana.

"I'm looking to create more of an experience and a wellness center in my facility that I think goes hand-in-hand with hospitality," he said.

License applications for new companies entering the industry opened on October 1, and businesses have until January 1, 2020, to apply. The city is also requiring all applying cannabis businesses to host at least one community meeting in the ward where they want to set up shop.

Weiner is confident if his group gets a license to sell recreational cannabis, they will get the location they want.

"I believe what ultimately will happen is community input and community support is going to be 100% necessary to get locations you want," Weiner said.

Click here for frequently asked questions about applying for a cannabis business license.

Click here for more information on and applications for recreational marijuana business licenses.
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