Old fuddy-duddy that I am, the odds that I will be purchasing legal recreational marijuana anytime soon are right up there with the infinitesimally small chance that I will wake up tomorrow with a full head of bushy black hair. Nope, not gonna happen.
As of this writing, Month One of Illinois’s great legal cannabis experiment is just about over. And it’s been sort of fun to watch, even for an old fuddy-duddy.
At the H-F Chronicle, we pride ourselves for only covering stories that are directly relevant to Homewood and Flossmoor. At least that’s our intent.
Days before the new state law went into effect on Jan. 1, we still didn’t know if Windy City Cannabis, in Homewood, would be able to sell recreational pot. An official at the dispensary, which has distributed medicinal cannabis since 2016, said it was going to happen but there was no official word from the state.
Then, on New Year’s Eve, the state announced that Windy City would be able to sell recreational product the next day and – ta-da – the Chronicle had a local story. Sure enough, there were long lines outside the Homewood dispensary on the first day of the year. And, from what I’ve heard, they’re still there.
From the start, recreational pot in Illinois has been treated like a Really Big Story. For the first few days, there were constant stories on TV and in other news outlets about the sales figures, the voracious demand and the terrifying possibility that there might not be enough pot to go around.
We were told mid-month that there were, statewide, recreational pot purchases of nearly $20 million in the first 12 days of the year and 495,385 total transactions, averaging about $40 for each sale.
It almost made you wonder if there were any other Really Big Stories going on in January. Like, perhaps, a presidential impeachment?
Anyway, Month One seems to have unfolded about as well as possible for a big pot roll-out. The recreational consumers seem pleased. The dispensaries are happily accepting oodles of cash money from their customers. And the state and other governmental units are eagerly awaiting tax revenues thanks to the consumers having a good time.
What’s more, it appears that everyone is behaving themselves. I’ve seen exactly one story about a crime related to recreational cannabis sales – it had to do with someone breaking into the safe at a Chicago dispensary and making off with $200,000 in cash.
Flossmoor Police Chief Tod Kamleiter told me that there was absolutely no uptick in illegal cannabis activity in the first few weeks of 2020. He’d told me a couple of months ago that there were regional law enforcement concerns that legalizing recreational cannabis might lead to an increase of illegal street sales of pot. But that doesn’t appear to be happening.
I also asked the Homewood Police Department if the new pot law had led to any sort of increase of cannabis activity. But I never got an answer to my question so I can only assume that, like in Flossmoor, there’s nothing to report.
Kamleiter also told me that his department’s main concerns with the new law have to do with the use of cannabis in public and use by persons under 18.
Under the new law, you are definitely allowed to smoke pot in your own home. You are definitely not allowed to use cannabis in your vehicle or in a public space. It sounds like the law is sketchy about using pot in, say, your backyard or on your patio. If a neighbor complains about your outdoor cannabis usage, the police may be paying you a visit.
Rolling out legal pot in January pretty much ensured that nearly all consumption would take place indoors. When warmer weather arrives, we can only hope that cannabis consumers will be as well-behaved. We shall see.
Though now an old fuddy-duddy, I distinctly remember being a bushy-haired young dude in the 1960s, a time of legendary pot use.
I hope that my generation – which is increasingly defined by “OK, boomer” – will be remembered for something other than pot use and other youthful silliness. I try hard not to get excited about the latest 50th anniversary of some wonderful event having to do with rock bands or psychedelic drugs. I moved on a long time ago and the greatest joys in my life came after I turned into a grown-up.
I was never much of a pot user and it’s been at least four decades since I even thought about using the stuff. My main pot concern in recent years had to do with telling my sons not to use it, mainly because I think it’s a stupid thing to do, but also because cannabis in the early 21st century is so much more powerful than what was available when I was young.
Having said all that, I think that legalizing pot may finally provide an opportunity to study cannabis and what it might truly offer in the way of health benefits. Since it’s been illegal, there has been no way to do meaningful research on how the plant might be used to treat pain and various illnesses.
It’s been known for years that cannabis provides relief to chemotherapy patients. It’s probably time to figure out why that works.
Similarly, CBD oils – made mostly from the part of the cannabis plant that is not mind-altering – appear to have promise in offering health benefits. It’s important to determine how the plant can be used in ways that have nothing to do with recreational use.
The Really Big Story could ultimately have more to do with something completely different than getting high.
For years, I have thought of pot use as dumb and boring. Now that it’s legal, there may be a chance to prove me wrong.