Springfield City Council has granted a permit for the first marijuana consumption lounge in the state of Illinois.

A firm called HCI Alternatives is the lucky recipient of the license and it hopes to have the lounge operational in downtown Springfield by April. The firm, which now plans to change its name to Illinois Supply & Provisions, promised the lounge will be “tastefully done” and provide visitors with an exciting experience.

It marks another significant milestone for Illinois, which only ushered in a new era of legal adult-use cannabis sales on Jan. 1. Statewide sales of legal marijuana totalled $19.7 million in the first 12 days.

However, only existing medical marijuana dispensaries have been selling recreational cannabis, and the market should grow significantly when dedicated cannabis stores begin springing up across the state. Industry insiders expect sales in the state to soar north of $2 billion per year.

“These on-site lounges provide some safety for individuals who are 21 and over that want to consume a legal product, and I believe that people will be responsible and they will react and act in the same way if they go downtown to a bar,” said Alderwoman Doris Turner of Springfield City Council.

The budding industry is dogged by the same early supply issues that have hit every state that have legalized recreational cannabis sales. Dispensaries have responded by putting a hiatus on recreational sales in order to allow patients to secure the medical marijuana they need to treat their conditions.

Yet Illinoisans have responded in turn by signing up for medical marijuana cards. Innovative Wellness in Chicago has reported a 50% increase in the number of patients it has certified, and it predicts that certifications will soon double.

Gaining a medical marijuana card allows Illinoisans to pay less tax on cannabis, while ensuring product supply at dispensaries facing serious shortages. Dispensaries are required by law to hold back marijuana to ensure they meet demand among medical patients.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said 2,573 people applied for medical marijuana cards between Jan. 1 and Jan. 17, compared to 1,922 during the same period the previous month.

Production in the state will ramp up significantly in the months ahead. Chicago-based Cresco Labs Ltd. has just secured a $100 million loan in order to fund ambitious expansion plans in Illinois.

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