Amid statewide marijuana shortages, an Illinois regulator warned dispensaries they are required by law to keep enough product on hand for medical patients.
Recreational marijuana went on sale in Illinois Jan. 1. Within days, some selling weed to the public had to stop because they ran out.
“It has been reported that many dispensaries are experiencing a shortage of cannabis products, including products for medical cannabis patients,” according to an email sent to industry operators and obtained by the Tribune. "The Department takes seriously the availability of product for medical patients and dispensaries are required by law to prioritize providing products to medical cannabis patients.”
The Friday afternoon email was sent from Bret Bender, deputy director of the Cannabis Control Section in the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which regulates dispensaries.
Marijuana stores that run out of products for patients could face up to $20,000 in penalties. Jordan Abudayyeh, spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker, said the state has not issued any citations.
The administration is closely monitoring supply levels at dispensaries, she said in a statement.
“IDFPR has issued a warning to dispensaries that they must immediately come into compliance with law; any corrective action taken by dispensaries may be considered a mitigating factor in the Department’s assessment of disciplinary action,” she said. “Understanding growing pains will be a part of any new industry, the administration expects dispensaries to follow the law in order to prioritize patients.”
The Illinois Department of Agriculture is also monitoring activity among marijuana growers.
A shortage during the early days of sales had been expected for months, and industry operators say it is likely to continue well into the year. The state’s 21 marijuana growing facilities are expanding, but construction takes time, as does growing weed.
New growers likely won’t enter the market until next year.
But some medical cannabis patients say dispensaries were running low on marijuana months before recreational sales started. In part, that is because the number of patients in the state’s medical marijuana program roughly doubled in the past year, and continues to grow.
Lemont resident Dottie Malan said she started noticing pickings were slim at her dispensary in October.
The 56-year-old has fibromyalgia and spinal issues, and said she supplements once- or twice-daily pain pills with marijuana products. She prefers to buy pre-rolled joints or marijuana capsules from the dispensary, but those products became hard to find.
“The medicine wasn’t there,” said Malan, 56. “It wasn’t just my medicine that wasn’t there; it was everybody’s medicine,”
In the email, Bender also warned dispensaries not to have too much product from a single grower on their shelves.
State law forbids dispensaries from having more than 40% of their inventory come from a single grower. Some dispensaries selling recreational products have violated that rule, according to the email.
The state is investigating the scope of the potential violations, the email said. It ordered dispensaries that might be violating the rule to “immediately remedy the problem."