Anecdotally, the cannabis industry seems to be doing O.K. Dispensary operators are reporting that sales are slightly up, although across the state, some are closing to recreational sales to ensure the safety of medical purchasers, some of whom might have compromised immune systems from the very diseases they are purchasing marijuana for.
But all reports are anecdotal at this point, since the state is late to update it’s monthly medical sales data (it was due on the 18th, last week) and the next update on monthly sales data, including recreational, is not due until the first week of April.
Still, as big a deal as recreational cannabis sales is in Illinois, it’s important to keep in mind that all the dispensaries open right now are also licensed for medical sales.
“The governor has made it clear in Illinois that dispensaries will be considered like pharmacies. Particularly for medicinal cannabis,” said Pam Altoff this week, Executive Director of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois.
“Everyone is wearing gloves, letting customers pass their own IDs through the system. Staggering shifts so employees have less contact with each other. Reducing the number of people that have access to the plants or grow areas. We’re doing everything we can to increase social distancing,” Altoff said of dispensary members.
Still, are dispensaries looking for changes to regulations?
John Daley lobbies for a group of dispensaries in Chicago. He says, not at the moment. “The real thing everyone is working on is curbside pickup. First for medical, and ideally for recreational. The retention for recreational cannabis is not high on anyone’s list.
“It is medicine. It is essential treatment for people, including PTSD and chronic pain. Curbside pickup seems to be what the state is moving towards for an alternative.”
“It’s not clear how delivery could even happen without the transportation licenses awarded,” says Daley. “Those applications haven’t gone in yet. March 30 is the deadline.”
And given how overloaded state agencies are with COVID-19 response, maybe even that could be pushed back.
“The only people licensed to transport in Illinois are the cultivators, who are licensed to only drop off at dispensaries,” says Daley. “It’s not like you can just start sourcing drivers from Grubhub to pick up orders. There’s not a mechanism, other than cultivators, and it’s probably not advantageous for them to get in that business right now because the liability is probably greater than they want.”
But still, this is a crisis. Maybe there could be a push for a legislative change?
That’s unlikely, says Altoff, herself a former state senator, pretty well plugged into the Springfield rumor mill.
“It was my understanding that the conversations about the General Assembly staying home until the end of the month are well established, and that is pretty firmly in place,” she said.
Mark Peyskahovich, another cannabis lobbyist and consultant, says cannabis businesses have more regulatory concerns than legislative.
“For example there are dispensaries and cultivators that expect to be short staffed. One of the things we’d love to see the state do is to allow temporary badging to allow people to go to this place rather than that one. Those are immediate operational issues, and need to be addressed perhaps more immediately rather than legislative issues,” said Peyskahovich.