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Light It Up: Illinois Ushers In New Year with Legalized Marijuana

Hundreds of Illinois residents started the year on a high note Wednesday as the Prairie State became the 11th state where recreational marijuana is sold legally.

Starting at 6 a.m., dispensaries opened up shop to begin selling the popular drug, prompting long lines before sunrise, Chicago’s ABC 7 reported. There was a delay, however, with some dispensaries experiencing issues with the new software used to track cannabis sales.

Illinois Legalizes Weed

On New Year’s Day Ilinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana. (Photo: Getty Images)

Illinois residents aged 21 and older may now purchase up to 30 grams of marijuana, five grams of cannabis concentrate items, and snacks/edibles containing 500 milligrams of THC. Visitors can only buy half as much.

“I got some gummies, some chocolates,” customer Demetrius Triplett told the outlet. “I bought a lot of stuff.”

Dispensary 33 in Andersonville, about 20 minutes north of Chicago, was the first to make a recreational sale in the entire state. Operation manager Paul Lee said he was shocked at the amount of people ready to buy, adding, “they are buying at an intense rate.”

Under the new law, residents are allowed to consume/smoke weed at their private residences. In some local jurisdictions, on-site consumption at dispensaries may also be allowed.

Legalization comes just one day after state Gov. J.B. Pritzker cleared more than 11,000 low-level marijuana convictions. Announcing the pardons at a local church on Tuesday, Pritzker said dropping the misdemeanor offenses of those charged would make it easier for them to land  jobs or housing, as well as begin to repair some of the damage caused by the war on drugs.

“The war on cannabis has destroyed families,” Pritzker said during a press conference. “It has filled jails and prisons with nonviolent offenders. It has disproportionately affected black and brown communities.”

Illinois State Police will be tasked with identifying those convictions and sending the records to the state’s Prisoner Review Board, which will then forward eligible cases to the governor’s office for pardons, according to AP. An estimated 116,000 convictions involving less than 30 grams of cannabis are eligible for pardons under the new law.

The governor expressed joy at the effort to end the “50-year-long war on cannabis.”

“We’re restoring rights to many tens of thousands of Illinoisans,” Pritzker added. “We’re bringing regulation and safety to a previously unsafe and illegal market. And we are creating a new industry that puts equity at its very core.”

So far, 43 dispensaries across Illinois have gotten permission to sell recreational marijuana. The drug is also legalized for recreational use in several other states, including Washington, California, Vermont and Colorado.

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