Illinois Adult-Use / Recreational Marijuana Dispensaries – Coming January 1, 2020

Fox Rothschild LLP

Fox Rothschild LLPOn June 25, 2019, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker made good on his campaign promise to sign an adult-use marijuana law. Pursuant to the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (the “Adult-Use Cannabis Act”), adult-use (i.e., recreational) marijuana will be legal and available starting January 1, 2020. The Adult-Use Cannabis Act is 610-pages, and this article briefly focuses on the dispensaries.[1] For a more comprehensive analysis of all 610 pages, Bill Bogot and Donna More from our firm put together a Cannabis Law Alert and we are available to answer any questions.

I. Dispensaries under the Illinois Medical Cannabis Act and the Adult-Use Cannabis Act.

On August 1, 2013, Illinois enacted the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, 410 ILCS 130/1 et seq. (the “Medical Cannabis Act”), which legalized medical marijuana for persons diagnosed with certain qualifying medical conditions. Under the Medical Cannabis Act and related Medical Cannabis Administrative Rules and Regulations, there are 43 “Dispensing Organization Districts” or “Districts” where one or more medical dispensaries may be located and there are a total of 60 medical dispensary licenses available.

1. There are 55 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Illinois.

Under the Medical Cannabis Act, although there are 60 available licenses, Illinois only has 55 licensed medical dispensaries. These medical dispensaries are dispersed throughout Illinois in the following cities (these are not the 43 Dispensing Organization Districts under the Medical Cannabis Act):

Addison (2 dispensaries)


Arlington Heights

Buffalo Grove



Chicago (11 dispensaries)



East Peoria


Elmwood Park






Highland Park









Mount Prospect




North Aurora

Oak Park





Rockford (2 dispensaries)

Rolling Meadows




St. Charles



2. Section 15-15. Early Approval Adult Use Dispensing Organization License.
Pursuant to Section 15-15 of the Adult-Use Cannabis Act, any currently licensed medical dispensary under the Medical Cannabis Act, may, within 60 days of the effective date of the Adult-Use Cannabis Act, apply for an Early Approval Adult Use Dispensing Organization License (“Early Approval Dispensing License”). An Early Approval Dispensing License allows currently licensed medical dispensaries to sell both medical and recreational cannabis at their medical dispensaries. If approved for an Early Approval Dispensing License, the medical dispensaries may begin selling recreational cannabis and related items on January 1, 2020.

3.Section 15-20. Secondary site for licensed medical dispensaries.

Pursuant to Section 15-20 of the Adult-Use Cannabis Act, any currently licensed medical dispensary under the Medical Cannabis Act, may, within 60 days of the effective date of the Adult-Use Cannabis Act, apply for an Early Approval Dispensing License “to operate a dispensing organization to serve purchasers at a secondary site not within 1,500 feet of another medical cannabis dispensing organization or adult use dispensing organization.” Therefore, a currently licensed medical dispensary, if approved for an Early Approval Dispensing License, will be able to sell recreational marijuana at its current medical dispensary as well as a secondary site.Pursuant to Section 15-20 of the Adult-Use Cannabis Act, the permissible locations for secondary sites “shall be within any BLS region that shares territory with the dispensing organization district to which the medical cannabis dispensing organization is assigned under the administrative rules for dispensing organizations under the [Medical Cannabis Act].” So, currently licensed medical dispensaries need to know their Districts under the Medical Cannabis Act Administrative Rules (i.e., where their dispensary is located) and then cross-check the 17 BLS Regions under the Adult-Use Cannabis Act. The 17 BLS Regions are defined and listed below in the following section. A medical dispensary’s secondary site can thus be located in any BLS Region that shares territory with the medical dispensary’s District, so long as the secondary site is not within 1,500 feet of another dispensary.

4. 75 new Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization Licenses to be issued before May 1, 2020.

This is where new applicants/entrants come into play. Under the Adult-Use Cannabis Act, Illinois is broken down into 17 separate “BLS Regions.” A BLS Region is defined as a region in Illinois used by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics to gather and categorize certain employment wage data. Pursuant to Section 15-25 of the Adult-Use Cannabis Act, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (“IDFPR”) will issue 75 Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization Licenses on or before May 1, 2020. These 75 Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization Licenses will be awarded in each BLS Region as follows:

BLS Region No.

BLS Region Name

(the counties that make up each Region are listed in bullet point)[2]

Number of the 75 Licenses to be issued before May 1, 2020


· De Witt County

· McLean County


Cape Girardeau

· Alexander County



· Jackson County

· Williamson County



· Champaign County

· Ford County

· Piatt County



· Cook County

· DeKalb County

· DuPage County

· Grundy County

· Kane County

· Kendall County

· Lake County

· McHenry County

· Will County



· Vermilion County


Davenport-Moline-Rock Island

· Henry County

· Mercer County

· Rock Island County



· Macon County



· Kankakee County



· Marshall County

· Peoria County

· Stark County

· Tazewell County

· Woodford County



· Boone County

· Winnebago County


St. Louis

· Bond County

· Calhoun County

· Clinton County

· Jersey County

· Macoupin County

· Madison County

· Monroe County

· St. Clair County



· Menard County

· Sangamon County


Northwest Illinois nonmetropolitan area

· Bureau County

· Carroll County

· Jo Daviess County

· La Salle County

· Lee County

· Ogle County

· Putnam County

· Stephenson County

· Whiteside County


West Central Illinois nonmetropolitan area

· Adams County

· Brown County

· Cass County

· Christian County

· Fulton County

· Greene County

· Hancock County

· Henderson County

· Knox County

· Livingston County

· Logan County

· Mason County

· McDonough County

· Montgomery County

· Morgan County

· Moultrie County

· Pike County

· Schuyler County

· Scott County

· Shelby County

· Warren County


East Central Illinois nonmetropolitan area

· Clark County

· Clay County

· Coles County

· Crawford County

· Cumberland County

· Douglas County

· Edgar County

· Effingham County

· Fayette County

· Iroquois County

· Jasper County

· Lawrence County

· Marion County

· Richland County


South Illinois nonmetropolitan area

· Edwards County

· Franklin County

· Gallatin County

· Hamilton County

· Hardin County

· Jefferson County

· Johnson County

· Massac County

· Perry County

· Pope County

· Pulaski County

· Randolph County

· Saline County

· Union County

· Wabash County

· Washington County

· Wayne County

· White County


The map below further illustrates the 17 BLS Regions and corresponding number of Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization Licenses available in each BLS Region. This article and map do not analyze the various zoning issues that may arise under the Adult-Use Cannabis Act.

Illinois Map

Click to view full map

The selection criteria for these 75 Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization Licenses is spelled out in Section 15-30 of the Adult-Use Cannabis Act and the IDFPR will also issue administrative rules and regulations with more details about the selection criteria.

5.110 Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization Licenses to be issued after January 1, 2021.

In addition to the (i) Early Approval Dispensing Licenses, (ii) Early Approval Dispensing Licensesecondary sites and (iii) 75 Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization Licenses, by December 21, 2021, pursuant to Section 15-35 of the Adult-Use Cannabis Act, the IDFPR shall issue up to 110 Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization Licenses.The future is impossible to predict, but there is no doubt that the Illinois market is about to boom and many licenses will be available. There will be intense competition for these licenses, so if you plan to apply, be prepared to spend some quality time on the application. Our firm has helped many businesses apply for and obtain various medical and recreational marijuana licenses throughout the country, and the application process is always more difficult and takes more time than you would expect. Please reach out if you want to discuss or are considering applying for any type of medical or adult-use license (e.g., dispensary, cultivation center, craft grower, infuser organization, transporting organization, etc.). Good luck!!

[1] Dispensaries are where you can purchase medical and/or recreational marijuana.

[2] According to the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2018 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Definitions, available at (last visited June 24, 2019).

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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