Analysts are expecting an onslaught of customers when shops open Jan. 1.
There’s a little more than two months to go before the sale of marijuana for recreational use becomes legal in Illinois.
But those who keep their eye on this business — yes, it is a for-profit business — are preparing for the expected onslaught of customers on Jan. 1 and shortly thereafter. Just like with a new restaurant, analysts are predicting lots of people are curious about the whole experience and can’t wait to try it out.
But how many? Will this impending business boom generate the tax revenue boom that state and local officials are counting on?
Probably not and for a variety of reasons.
But market analysts certainly expect customers.
Here are a couple of numbers to ingest about the business of legal weed.
Market analysts are predicting that 946,000 adults 21 and over — that’s 9 percent of the state’s population — will become customers.
The local pot shop also is expected to become a tourist trap. Experts predict that 11 million of the 114 million annual visitors to Illinois will become buyers.
Is the expected number of customers for legal weed more or less than the numbers who already buy illegal weed? Who can say?
But there are large numbers of users because the use of marijuana already is decriminalized.
Police make arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana only in conjunction with other crimes. The claim that our jails and prisons are filled with those caught smoking marijuana is just false, even though useful to energize the legalization debate.
The illegal buyers aren’t the only ones consuming marijuana either.
The Chicago Tribune reported recently that more than 50,000 residents purchased medical marijuana in the month of September alone.
The medical marijuana ploy represented the camel’s nose under the legalization tent.
First limited to a few maladies, legislators have repeatedly expanded the number of medical conditions they claim can be treated with marijuana. Physicians, for the most part, don’t share that view, and they certainly dispute the number of conditions cited by the state.
But this issue long ago ceased having anything to do with medicine. So those who think it might be good for what ails them sign up and buy what they want.
But to what end? There are going to be definite downsides to this social experiment.
What they turn out to be and how serious they are is currently a matter of speculation. Illinois will know more in a year or two.
In the meantime, get ready for the legalization.
But that, too, represents a problem, one related to basic economics.
Citing experiences of other states, the initial flurry of consumers is expected to overwhelm dispensaries and, potentially, consume their entire supply.
Indeed, one producer expects an extended shortage of supply, predicting the first six months of legal marijuana is “going to be bumpy.”
The good news, of course, is that illegal, decriminalized weed will still be widely available and probably at a much more reasonable price than the legal stuff. To keep their customers satisfied, operators in the underground market keep their overhead low and dispense with those nettlesome taxes.