Passing a joint became legal in Illinois on New Year’s Day 2020 – but good luck finding one. Cannabis dispensaries in other parts of the nation are also reporting
The Land of Lincoln was the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use after June 2019 when Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law. No longer would non-criminal cannabis consumption be limited to people qualified to hold a medical marijuana (MMJ) card in Illinois.
Lifting the state’s recreational pot ban went into effect on January 1, 2020. On that day, any consumer aged 21 and older could, for the first time, legally purchase marijuana for recreational use from authorized licensed sellers.
Illinois cannabis dispensaries ran out of stock six days after opening their doors.
Months before that, Illinois medical marijuana patients began to notice that there was a shortage of therapeutic bud, the potent flower tops of the cannabis plant bred for its high THC content.
Stay-at-home dad Paul Jochujm of Crystal Lake observed in November 2019:
“The amounts are getting smaller and the price is going up.”
The father uses cannabis to ease severe physical pain. He held up an empty plastic one-ounce container and said he hadn’t been able to locate “a single ounce of flower at all” in the past eight months.
Furthermore, the ounce of pot that cost $250 when it was purchased would now fetch more than $400.
In mid-2020, Illinois plans to grant additional licenses to dozens of new stores, processors, cultivators, and transporters. Until then, pot costs are soaring and customers are steaming.
Kalee Hooghkirk owns Full Spektrum Services, a full service herbally conscious wellness facility located in West Dundee that claims to be the top resource for Illinois Cannabis registry, education, events, spa services, and CBD retail. Hooghkirk confirmed that Illinois cannabis priced spiked before New Year’s Day:
“We’ve been promised for the past four years that prices would go down and availability would go up, and unfortunately, we’re seeing the exact opposite.”
Hooghkirk, an advocate and counselor for cannabis patients, explained the challenge facing her clients:
“Our patients are extremely affected right now. We’re seeing a huge issue with supply and demand within this state. We need to know why some of these dispensaries are stocked and why a lot of them aren’t.”
Florida is also experiencing cannabis shortages. Robin Boggs of Volusia County smokes medical marijuana to help manage her chronic pain from four failed neck surgeries, preferring it over the recommended morphine pump because the natural herb doesn’t leave her “zombified.” The MMJ patient lamented the lack of botanical medication at her local supply store:
“They are having a hard time keeping flower in stock. Many times when I visit a dispensary, I leave heartbroken.”
In March 2019, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis directed the State Legislature with amending Florida law to allow smoking cannabis along with taking it in pill, oil, edible, and vape forms. Patients may buy up to 2.5 ounces of whole flower cannabis every 35 days as recommended by their qualified doctor.
Since the Florida law went into effect, medical marijuana treatment centers have dispensed more than 15,000 ounces of the whole flower product.
CEO Jose Hidalgo of the Florida MJ dispensary Fluent Cannabis said that today’s shortages are the result of inadequate planning since it takes up to six months to build a growing facility and another 4-5 months until plant maturation.
“This is not something you can snap your fingers and make happen. It’s hard to keep up with a demand that is unknown.”
MMJ patients in Pennsylvania also began experiencing shortages in the fall of 2019 after changes to Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program in late July expanded qualifying conditions to include anxiety disorders and Tourette syndrome. Patients looking for relief benefited but the dispensaries were hard-pressed to keep up with the additional demand.
The Keystone State approved a scant 25 cannabis growers. Barely half of them are set up to ship their stock. There are 200,000 medical marijuana patients in Pennsylvania.
Joan Guadagnino, Chief Operating Officer at the Keystone Canna Remedies (KCR) MMJ dispensary, acknowledged the problem and its solution:
“The supply and demand needs to catch up to each other and I think the growers are working really diligently to try and do that.”
Guadagnino said that the supplies they can get are unpredictable in quality but often simply aren’t available. KCR plans to buy products with consistent potency and physiological effects from different growers so if one grower runs out of a particular product, a second grower might fill the void with something very similar.
Meanwhile, back in Illinois, speaking for Cresco Labs, which makes about 600 different marijuana products, Jason Erkes agreed with Florida’s Hidalgo and reassured the cannabis-consuming public that time would solve the current cannabis supply and demand problem for everyone:
“It’s no different than the launch of anything new when there’s a lot of anticipation, whether it’s a shoe, a phone or a new chicken sandwich. There’s no way to initially meet the demand, but it’ll catch up quickly.”
Until then, marijuana users may choose to bogart their joints instead of passing them over to someone else.