Local and national news have discussed it feverishly. It’s caused much angst among both Illinois medical patients and recreational consumers alike. Here is a reality for those who may not know. Dispensaries are currently experiencing a tremendous cannabis shortage statewide, one which may continue into the unforeseeable future. This has caused limited product availability on dispensary menus. Industry experts are predicting the shortage to last anywhere between six months and a year, but it is difficult to predict.
What lead to the cannabis shortage in Illinois? It really began in the second half of 2019. With the addition of several qualifying conditions to the Illinois medical cannabis program in August 2019, dispensaries saw a massive uptick in individuals applying to get their medical cards. Cultivation centers, the entities that produce cannabis products that are supplied to dispensaries, have had to expand operations to keep up with ever expanding patient population. Illinois law requires that dispensaries have an adequate supply of cannabis products to serve their patient base first and foremost. This is apparent most when comparing medical and recreational menus. Cultivators are currently manufacturing fewer bulk or wholesale cannabis products than in the past. Furthermore, dispensaries may impose product limits to ensure as many patients can be served as possible.
Then came the June 25, 2019 signing of the Illinois recreational cannabis bill by Governor J.B. Pritzker, effectively legalizing the use of cannabis for all adults 21 years of age and older starting January 1, 2020. The existing twenty Illinois cultivators were then tasked with not only producing cannabis products for Illinois patients but the massive adult market that lay ahead in just six months. To put it into perspective, cannabis is typically cultivated indoors and the seed-to-harvest timeframe is roughly four months on average. The cannabis is then sent to a drying room and eventually manufactured into a variety of cannabis products. Cultivators continue to ramp up production exponentially by hiring more staff and expanding their facilities. The shortage was entirely expected but unavoidable given the finite number of operational cultivators. In fact, similar cannabis shortages have been seen in almost all other states leading up to adult use legalization. Illinois will not be awarding more cultivation licenses in 2020 but does plan to award 40 licenses for craft growers in July 2020 that may alleviate some of the burden. Craft growers are different from cultivation centers in that they can produce less square footage of cannabis and cannot do any further processing.
Our dispensary, as do many others in the state, procure as much product from cultivators as possible. We understand there is much frustration during this cannabis shortage but remember that we are all in this together. There will be a day when the supply for cannabis in Illinois achieves a closer balance with the consumer demand. Until that day, we do ask that you refrain from treating dispensary technicians poorly. Dispensary technicians are doing their very best to assist patients and recreational customers. We wish there is more that we could do during this shortage but it is ultimately beyond our control. What we can control is doing our absolute best to provide a vast product selection, top-notch customer service in a welcoming atmosphere.