Recreational Cannabis: Supply Shortage Happened as Expected, Experts Say
For months, just about everyone in the cannabis industry warned that supplies would most likely dwindle to zero after the Jan. 1 launch
On its seventh day, the Illinois recreational cannabis industry was marked with short supplies, long lines, and in some cases, shuttered dispensaries Tuesday.
And no one in the industry was surprised.
For months, just about everyone in the cannabis industry warned that supplies would most likely dwindle to zero after recreational marijuana launched on Jan. 1. As expected, some dispensaries closed completely this week, while others imposed purchase limits, or sold only to medical patients (State law mandates that medical cannabis users get first priority).
“We have limited supplies left,” said Jason Erkes, spokesman for Cresco Labs. “We’re certainly out of some products and some strains, but we put rations in place at the beginning when things launched to make sure we could stretch our products as far as we can to make sure we serve as many recreational customers as we can.”
At Cresco’s Sunnyside dispensary in Wrigleyville Tuesday, customers waited as long as four hours in line to get a chance at whatever they could buy. Queing up in a vacant bank a block away, patrons were warned about the purchase limits of one item per category (flowers, concentrates, and edibles).
Gavin Fox told NBC 5 he waited about four hours in line.
“I tried on the second day, “ he said. “But the line was far too extensive...it wasn’t worth the wait.”
The state’s largest dispensary, The Herbal Center on Ogden Avenue, shut down recreational sales completely over the weekend, giving preference to their medical customers.
“We will resume with sales of edibles, topicals, etc. on Friday,” spokesman Courtney Greve-Hack told NBC 5. “No flower sale date set until they can feel confident they have enough for medical patients.”
Cresco and Pharmacann both raise cannabis, in addition to selling it. But Pharmacann’s Unruh says that does not give companies like his a leg up, because state laws say they can’t favor their own dispensaries.
“That’s a regulatory requirement that we take very seriously,” he told NBC 5. “Over the last five years we have developed very strong wholesale relationships with the other cultivators in Illinois, and we’ve spent the last several months leveraging and working those wholesale relationships to make sure that we’re prepared for day one, week one, month one.”
For now, expect the shortages to continue---possibly for weeks or even months as demand continues to run high.
“Right now, all the cultivators in the state are ramping up their production and expanding their facilities so there will be deliveries that come in on a regular basis for the next couple of months,” Erkes said. “But spring is really when we’ll see all that product come to market.”
“Day one and week one are not perfect,” Pharmacann’s Jeremy Unruh said. “But they are going as we anticipated.”