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Study: Illinois demand could outpace supply if cannabis is legalized

CHICAGO — A new study found that demand for legal weed in Illinois could be far higher than what licensed growers can produce. Some say this means that opportunities should expand to meet the demand, including in communities hardest hit by arrests for cannabis.

From the Chicago Tribune:

The study, performed by the Colorado consulting firm Freedman & Koski, lends support to those who argue that Illinois’ fledgling marijuana industry should expand and diversify, allowing the participation of more black and Latino entrepreneurs — people whose communities have disproportionately suffered during America’s war on drugs.

“We have a whole industry that’s treating it like the gold rush, but you have generations of folks who are still living with all the impacts of what the criminal justice system did to them,” said Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Chicago Heights. “It’s unfair to discuss this in any other way.”

The possibility of full marijuana legalization has stirred up a robust lobbying effort from many of the state’s 16 licensed growers, who have said that absent proof to the contrary, they believe they are capable of meeting demand. Their industry group, the Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois, has said adding more cultivators could lead to a marijuana glut that would encourage illegal diversion.

But the study concludes otherwise. Making projections based on the 8 percent of Illinoisans who admit recent marijuana use and the state’s robust tourism industry, it says current growers could meet only 35 to 54 percent of demand if recreational marijuana were legalized.

Illinois NORML told the Tribune that the state has the most expensive marijuana in the country and is already seeing shortages of some products for medical customers.

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