Pubdate: Thu, 02 Jan 2020
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2020 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Robert McCoppin


Illinois started off the new decade by embarking into the world of
recreational marijuana, where people can buy the intoxicating plant
legally and without a prescription.

Across the Chicago area, thousands lined up - some before dawn - for a
chance to buy marijuana legally for the first time. The day featured
long lines, a few glitches - and lots of happy customers.

"It's history, so it's worth the wait," Damien Smith of Maywood said
as he left MedMen dispensary in Oak Park with a bag of cannabis
products after waiting in line for about four hours.

Illinois became the 11th state in the country, and also Washington
D.C., where marijuana is sold legally without a prescription. Gov.
J.B. Pritzker and his allies pushed the legalization effort through
the legislature last year amid softening attitudes toward marijuana,
and painting it as a just and financially sensible move to help the
state's tenuous finances.

One of the first people to make a purchase at the Sunnyside dispensary
on Clark Street in Chicago was Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton.
She told the Tribune she purchased gummies and customers and staff
applauded the politician once her sale was complete.

Some customers show up to unopened store: 'It's going to take time. Be
patient. I'll wait'

Dozens of people continued to lineup outside of Nature's Care
dispensary in Rolling Meadows, but the store wasn't open for business.
Nature's Care won city approval for recreational sales, but the
store's website stated that it had not yet received state approval,
and would only offer medical sales for the foreseeable future.

Some customers were angry that there were no signs or anyone to
explain the situation, while others were chill about it.

"It's kind of to be expected," said NIko Harissis, as he left the
line. "There's a lot of red tape. I wouldn't be surprised if all the
dispensaries are approved in a couple of weeks and the rush dies down.
It's going to take time. Be patient. I'll wait."

- - Robert McCoppin, 1 p.m.

In downstate Harrisburg, people flooded the street, parking lot and
fields around Thrive dispensary.

The store opened at 10 a.m., but people started lining up hours before
daybreak, said principal officer Gorgi Naumovski. The lines have been
relentless at Thrive's location in Anna, too.

"We expected some sort of line, but I didn't expect nonstop,"
Naumovski said, from the Harrisburg location. "Good thing we've got
five acres next to us. You'd think there was a flea market or an auction."

The state announced only Tuesday that both of Thrive's locations had
been approved to sell recreational cannabis. That didn't leave much
time to prepare for the crush of people.

But the dispensaries were operating under the assumption that they
would be approved, and had recently undergone renovations to help
customers flow better through the store, Naumovski said. Though he
added that he wished there was more flower available. Thrive has
limited customers to buying two items, and may knock that limit down
to just one item.

"We're trying time stretch it but it just hasn't let up," he said.
"Some people will be disappointed by the end of the day."

Additionally, Naumovski said the dispensary has been battling all day
a software system used by Thrive dispensaries at checkout and by the
state to track marijuana sales.

Thrive has had to stop sales several times for 10- or 15-minute
intervals to get things sorted out, causing delays in the checkout

Illinois Supply and Provisions, with Downstate locations in
Collinsville and Springfield, also experienced the glitch with
checkouts earlier in the day, but it was resolved shortly after 7
a.m., said Chris Stone, senior advisor at Ascend Illinois, which
operates the dispensaries.

Both of the dispensaries were greeted with long lines Wednesday
morning, as fewer shops were open downstate selling recreational weed.
The Collinsville location, which is drawing customers from the St.
Louis area, had served nearly 600 people by 11 a.m., Stone said.

"We're the only dispensary for adult-use within 80 miles," he said.
The shops gave out doughnuts and coffee, and is planning to give pizza
to people waiting in line for lunch. With temperatures nearing 50
degrees in both downstate locations, warming tents weren't necessary,
Stone said.

The lines, though long, are moving fast. Employees are using tablets
to take orders for people while they wait in line, and once people get
into the dispensary, they're in and out in about six minutes, Stone

The dispensaries implemented a buying limit on marijuana flowers
Wednesday morning, and may need to adjust it further. "I'll be
interested to see how long it is before certain places run out of
product," Stone said. "I'll also be interested to see what happens
tomorrow and the next day." - Ally Marotti 12:40 p.m.

Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton among first to purchase legal
marijuana products in Lakeview

One of the first people to make a purchase at the Sunnyside dispensary
was Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton. As part of Gov. J.B.
Pritzker's administration, Stratton has been instrumental in efforts
to help people with marijuana convictions by pardoning them as part of
the legalization process.

Stratton was seen at the Clark Street dispensary shortly after sales
became legal at 6 a.m. Wednesday. She told the Tribune she purchased
gummies and customers and staff applauded the politician once her sale
was complete.

On New Year's Eve, Stratton stood alongside Pritzker when he announced
he would be pardoning some 11,000 people convicted of low-level
marijuana crimes.

"This is justice," Stratton said Tuesday. "And this is what equity is
all about, righting wrongs and leveling the playing field."

The pardon means convictions involving less than 30 grams of marijuana
will be automatically expunged.

Stratton's office was closed for New Year's Day, according to a
telephone recording. An email to her team requesting comment was not
immediately returned.

Some on social media were critical of Stratton's decision, despite
marijuana's new legal status, apparently because of her role in state
government. Others suggested she is helping to reduce the stigma
associated with use of a product that is no longer against the law. -
Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas, 12:15 p.m.

Medical marijuana misunderstanding leaves many miffed

A steady stream of visitors drove up to the Sunnyside dispensary in an
industrial park in Buffalo Grove, anxiously awaiting their chance to
be part of history.

Instead, a sign on the door notified them their dreams would be
dashed. The store was not selling recreational marijuana, only medical

Patrons were disappointed and angry that the store hadn't announced
that online.

A guard at the door said he had passed out some 600 flyers promoting
the Sunnyside site in Elmwood Park, which does sell recreational cannabis.

Elman Ilyayev, 34, of Buffalo Grove, stood outside smoking a
cigarette, frustrated by the confusion.

"I just wanted the experience and buy something legally," he said. "I
wanted to see the vibe."

Several people said they would try other pot shops, but were dreading
the long waits, which held at around three hours by mid-morning at
Rise Mundelein. -Robert McCoppin, 11:05 a.m.

'The early bird gets the herb!'

The early morning wait for Oak Park residents Jack Fitzgerald and
Conor Foley paid off.

"The early bird gets the herb!" Fitzgerald shouted on his way out of
the store. For Fitzgerald, his approximately $300 haul at the MedMen
recreational marijuana dispensary in Oak Park included "Some flower,
edibles and a disposable cartridge," he said.

"I'm going to mix it all together and make a fruit salad," he said.
"I'm pretty excited."

Damien Smith, of Maywood, said started waited from about 3:40 a.m. to
be the first in line. "It's history, so it's worth the wait," Smith
said after he left just before 8 a.m.

"It kind of reminded me of Las Vegas in there."

Seven Point, which opened in 2016 as a medical marijuana dispensary,
was purchased in October 2018 by MedMen, a national chain of
high-profile marijuana stores. The dispensary received state approval
to sell recreational marijuana back in December.

Berwyn resident Jay Celer-Robling said he waited about two hours to
get inside, finally emerging with his purchase at about 8:45 a.m.

"It's a historic day, and I wanted to take part," Celer-Robling said.
"It was very much worth it."

Celer-Robling said he purchased 1/8 of an ounce of "blue gelato indica
hybrid," which cost him about $58.

"It was very organized," Celer-Robling said. "They take your orders on
an iPad and hand you a card with a number on it. Once you get to the
counter, you give them the card and get your order from the back
room." - Steve Schering, Pioneer Press, 11 a.m

'The beginning of a new age, the end of an antiquated

By the time Midway Dispensary near the airport opened its doors to
recreational customers at 10 a.m., the line stretched around the block
and onto an adjacent residential street.

Josh Glikis, 28, got in line at 4 a.m. and was the first to enter the
dispensary. Michael Lorimer, 24, arrived at 4:30 a.m. and was right
behind him. The two, who didn't know each other before, looked over
the menu together before the dispensary opened. Midway limited the
amount of flower, joints and concentrates customers could buy due to a
statewide shortage.

Glikis said he was "very bummed" about the purchasing limit. He came
ready to buy the maximum 30 grams of flower the state allows, and was
worried he would go through what he bought Wednesday in a day.

Lorimer wasn't worried about the limits and urged his new friend to
see the big picture.

"Smoke a joint and calm down," he told Glikis. "This is the beginning
of a new age, the end of an antiquated viewpoint. It's beautiful. I
can't wait to tell my grandkids about it."

Lorimer was sitting in a folding chair, wrapped in a blanket, with
sunglasses shielding his eyes from the bright January sunshine that
was starting to melt the snow, despite the chilly temperature.

Once inside, Lorimer and Glikis scrolled through tablets displaying
the dispensary's menu. Glikis got sour watermelon and grape gummies,
and 1/8 of an ounce of the marijuana strain called Blue Gelato.
Lorimer got vape cartridges and cannabis-infused milk chocolate.

When he left, Lorimer wanted a picture of himself in front of the
dispensary, triumphantly holding up his legally-purchased weed
products. One man who walked out of the dispensary said he was "happy
as a hummingbird." A woman he was with said, "All I can say is, Gov.
Pritzker for president."

Halfway back through the line, Sammie Winiarski, 24, and Joe Sanders,
25, said they had been waiting about an hour and a half.

Winiarski was wrapped in a pink blanket with monkeys, and both wore
hats that said "Happy New Year."

The couple lives nearby and drove over. Neither were concerned about
the buying limits.

"It's just to kind of spread the love," Winiarski said. "It's the
moment to just have something for today."

People driving past the dispensary on Archer Avenue rolled down their
windows to shout about weed being legal, honk at the people waiting in
line or take videos of the line on their phones.

To move people more quickly through the line, Midway Dispensary had
customers write down the products they wanted on a brown paper bag
while they waited.

Frank Harper, 58, carried his brown bag from the dispensary's waiting
area back to the shop floor to make a purchase. He had written the
items he wanted on the bag, including some cannabis infused honey for
his daily cup of tea and a bar of milk mint Irish cream chocolate for
his wife.

While he waited for the employee to get his products from a back room
and ring him up, he said the store wasn't what he anticipated. It was
his first visit to a dispensary.

"I was expecting more of the glass where you could see where the
product is at, kind of like a candy store," he said. But he said it
was a cool experience.

Legalization "should have been done a long time ago," he said. - Ally
Marotti, 12:04 p.m.

Politicians celebrate this 'monumental moment' for

At Dispensary 33 on the North side of the city, a pager system made
the wait about two hours, said Abigail Watkins, who works with
marketing and patient outreach for the dispensary.

A tent stationed on the corner of Argyle and Clark streets in Uptown
offered instructions for customers to check in prior to their wait.
Customers put their name and number down and waited for a text
confirmation to be able to enter the dispensary. Lines formed down
Clark Street, with local businesses opening their doors to the crowds.

Watkins said flower has been one of the most popular products for the
dispensary, with strains like Pineapple Express in high demand.
Edibles, including chocolates and gummies, also were especially popular.

"People are not used to having quality-controlled and consistent
edibles," she said.

Inside the dispensary, products were displayed in clear glass boxes
with workers on tablets guiding customers. Two ATMs were stationed in
the corner, with a security guard monitoring the space and exit.

At a news conference Wednesday morning, local politicians celebrated
the day, calling it a "monumental moment" for the city.

"Change is possible, we can do really wonderful work," said Ald. Matt
Martin, 47th.

"These are folks who live in our community and reinvest in our
community," Martin said of the dispensary's owners.

Ald. Andre Vasquez, 40th, joked he was "geeked" about the outcome so

"It really does warm my heart on this really cold day, it feels like a
special moment to be in elected office," he said. - Jessica
Villagomez, 10:36 a.m.

Boozing versus blazing: Officer suggests alcohol is more

Police in Mundelein said they hadn't seen anyone smoking pot in
public, which remains illegal. One officer who asked to remain
anonymous said the vast majority of their domestic violence calls,
especially at New Year's Eve, are alcohol-related, involving
confrontational people who've been drinking, and few were related to
cannabis use. - Robert McCoppin, 10:01 a.m.

What once was illegal now comes in a bright yellow

Elise Swopes, a 30-year-old social media influencer, and her cousin
Aaron Swopes, 35, were among the first to purchase marijuana at Sunnyside.

Elise Swopes said she was approached by Cresco's incubator program,
and she and her cousin both became social equity applicants to apply
for dispensary licenses.

"Obviously, people of color have been affected tremendously by the war
on drugs," said Elise Swopes, who is black.

"We can't make these changes without thinking of those

Aaron Swopes has been arrested twice for having marijuana on him in
Illinois, he said. Once was in 2015 in Lake County, where he lives,
and the second time was in 2017 in the Humboldt Park area, he said.
"It will spiral your whole life around," he said.

For marijuana possession, Swopes said he was arrested and had to
attend court, which required that he take time off work, and then pay
a fine and other associated fees.

He stood outside of the Sunnyside building and stared at its bright
yellow wall. He held onto a small shopping bag, in the same bright
shade of yellow. It held $50 worth of products, including a pre-rolled

"I'm still in awe of everything," he said.

Joe Caltabiano, co-founder and president of Cresco, hurried about
Sunnyside, making sure everything was in order.

"It's a historic day for the people of Illinois," he said. "People
came out in droves."

Caltabiano, who has lived in Chicago since 1999, said he also plans to
buy some products for himself, including Mindy's gummies, some flower
and a liquid live resin cartridge.

"It's the end of prohibition," he said. - Paige Fry, 9:45

Wait time: Three hours ... and 50 years

By almost 9 a.m., people who had waited about three hours were
entering Mission Dispensary.

Don Bransford, 71, said he waited two hours outside and one hour
inside, and he was still standing in line.

"It's worth it," said the South Shore resident. "I've waited for 50

Bransford said that while he was waiting, he asked people in line if
there was anyone there that had never smoked marijuana before. Not a
single person spoke up.

"This is for the people that have been waiting," he said. - Ally
Marotti, 9 a.m.

Don't call pot users 'lazy' or 'hippies'

As the initial rush waned and lines progressed in Mundelein,
65-year-old Mary Yazel-Muska said she waited about two hours to make
her purchase. She objected to the image of lazy stoners smoking pot.

"I'm a responsible human being," she said. "I own a home. I worked for
a bank as a fraud investigator for 20 years. I rescue dogs. I
volunteer. I take care of my 93-year-old mother. It's not like we're
all a bunch of hippies."

She planned to go home to her boyfriend, pop a small bottle of
champagne and some edibles and celebrate.

A Mundelein police officer was on hand to keep an eye on proceedings,
and reported no problems. - Robert McCoppin, 8:04 a.m.

Technical difficulties mean free T-shirts

About 7 a.m., the first customers in line at Mission Dispensary were
still waiting to get their hands on the weed they'd selected, due to a
glitch in the check-out process.

An issue with the state database - the state tracks all marijuana
sales - was preventing the workers from ringing up customers, said
Kris Krane, president and co-founder of 4Front, which operates Mission.

Candace Whitker of Washington Park was waiting her turn at the counter
for about an hour. She said she expected a glitch or two, since it is
the very first day of sales.

"I thought there would have been a longer line when I got here and I
thought something would happen," she said. "Too good to be true."

The glitch at Mission issue lasted about 30 minutes. Krane said he
believed it to be an issue with how the dispensary's point of sale
system was communicating with the state's sale tracking system, which
meant some product purchases weren't going through.

Sales were shut down at Mission completely for about 20 minutes.
Flower and pre-rolled joints came back online first.

"When there's an issue like that I get into damage control mode,"
Krane said. "We were all running around, all hands on deck to make
sure it was back on."

The store ordered more coffee for waiting customers and and gave out
free T-shirts.

"These things happen," Krane said. "The systems have never seen this
much volume before."

Other customers were shocked at how bright and well-maintained the
stores were after imagining something more akin to an incense-filled
head shop.

"When you come in, it's a very professional setting," said Mission
customer Joseph Weaver. "I felt like I was ordering a new iPhone or
iPad, but I'm sitting here buying weed." - Ally Marotti, 7:55 a.m.

Legal marijuana is taxable marijuana

A Rise Mundelein employee reminded the waiting crowd to anticipate
adding taxes of 10% to 25% to their orders.

"Make sure you have enough money!" He announced to the crowd. "We're
slowing down because we people don't have enough money."

As the sun cast its first light on hundreds of people in line outside,
Rise CEO and founder Ben Kovler said more than 500 people were in line
before the doors opened.

"Things are great. A lot of people came out. I'm getting a lot of
'thank you's' and 'we've been waiting a long time.' There's a festive
vibe. Doesn't it feel like the Caribbean?" - Robert McCoppin, 7:27

A 'green' new day in Illinois

The line at Mission Dispensary had tripled a half-hour into legal weed

Earlier, workers at the dispensary held a ribbon-cutting to celebrate
the end of marijuana prohibition. They threw green confetti, which
blew down Commercial Avenue, and cut a giant green ribbon with
oversized scissors.

"Remember where you were on Jan. 1, 2020," said regional manager
Gabriel Mendoza.

The crowd cheered.

Edie Moore, executive director of Chicago Norml - a marijuana advocacy
group - was the first person to buy recreational weed at the
dispensary. As soon as she checked out, more customers started flowing
into the shop.

They came in wrapped in blankets, wearing hats, puffy coats and furry
Ugg boots. Free hot chocolate, coffee, and pastries awaited them when
they entered the store.

In the retail area, the customers went to iPads stationed around the
store to see what products were available and to place orders. The
cash registers filled up, and customers stood around talking to
employees about what to buy.

Brian Hopkins, Chris Myers and Joseph Weaver got in line at 4 a.m. and
we're among the first to enter the shop.

"We stayed up all night smoking weed," said Myers, 29. "We got high to
come get high."

The event was a celebration for the friends, and they planned to go
back to Hopkins' place in Calumet City to smoke the weed they bought.
- - Ally Marotti, 7:05 a.m.

'It's remarkable'

A clerk at Rise Mundelein rang up the first sale of the day - for $341
- - spent by a man who identified himself only as Chris. The price is
much higher than on the street but the content was tested and
verified, he said, making it well worth it.

"It's the first day of freedom," he said. "I've been waiting over 30
years for this. It's remarkable." - Robert McCoppin, 6:05 a.m.

The atmosphere at Rise was relaxed and cordial, with laughter breaking
out occasionally. One man wore gold beads, a woman wore pajamas. One
man asked his friend to borrow $100.

Michael Shelton, 23, of Lake Zurich, had to use the in-store ATM twice
because the $382 bill was more than he expected, and all transactions
were cash-only.

As an electrician for a family run business, he was not worried about
drug testing. He said his purchase was far more expensive than on the
street, but worth it for the quality. - Robert McCoppin, 6:28 a.m.

Dispensary employees at Rise took orders from customers outside in
line to speed up the process. There were outdoor heaters, and free
coffee hats and gold bead medallions.

The dispensary also hired a steel drum player to play outside, adding
a little "Red Red Wine" to the proceedings. - Robert McCoppin, 7:03

Front row seat to history in the making

At 8 p.m. on New Year's Eve, Marky and Jenny Vee grabbed some snacks,
picked up a pizza and headed for Mission Dispensary in the South Shore

The East Side residents were the first people in line for recreational
marijuana sales at the store Wednesday. They set up a red tent to keep
them warm, and played reggae music on a speaker.

"You have got to dance a little to stay warm," said Marky

Dozens of people, bundled against temperatures that hovered in the
20s, lined up behind them.

Heaters glowed along the line, and people waiting in line brought each
other coffee.

Xavier Torres drove in from Whiting, Indiana, to get in line with his
friend just after the clock struck midnight.

They wanted to get in line early because marijuana shops around the
state are expecting product shortages in the early days of sales.

Nearly every state that has gone from medical to recreational
marijuana sales has experienced shortages. Illinois operators say they
expect flower, the dry buds that can be smoked, to go first. Some have
put buying limits in place.

Mission Dispensary put a $300 spending limit in place for recreational

Torres has been watching Mission's online menu, and the strain he
wanted sold out. As he stood in line early Wednesday, he said he was
excited to shop around. After all, having options is one of the perks
of recreational weed, he said.

Once Torres gets through the dispensary, he plans to call a friend who
lives nearby and see if he's up. He's hoping to go have a warm
breakfast and smoke.

"That will be our New Year's celebration," Torres said. "It'll be
worth it." - Ally Marotti, 6:17 a.m.

To be in line at Rise, husband and wife Brian and Micki Rimer of Lake
Villa went to bed early Tuesday night and set their alarm to get to
the Mundelein store by 2:30 a.m.

Brian Reimer was among the first to experience what will likely become
a common issue: He exceeded the legal limit and had to reduce his order.

"It's awfully expensive" he said. "I've been smoking for 30 years.
It's finally legal. I don't have to worry about getting busted for

His wife chimed in: "This means I don't have to sneak around anymore.
I'm not doing anything illegal, and the taxes go to the state." -
Robert McCoppin, 6:38 a.m.

Plans for their purchases

One group of five friends were at a house party at midnight near Rise
Mundelein and saw the line forming outside. They chose to get a couple
hours of sleep, then wake up and get in line.

Afterward, they said they planned to go home and open their sealed
packages in a group, similar to what some children do at the end of
Oct. 31, shaking out bags of Halloween treats.

The idea was to share and compare samples, and then finally go back to
sleep after a long and festive night. - Robert McCoppin, 6:46 a.m.

Expect lines

People were lined up down the block outside Rise Mundelein. A cheer
went up when the doors opened and when the first customer left with
the first purchase. By far, most of those waiting were young men. -
Robert McCoppin, 6:09 a.m.

When Dustin Kennedy woke up on the last day of 2019, he thought to
himself, why not try to be one of the first people in Chicago to buy
legal recreational marijuana.

He celebrated the New Year in North Center with his wife, but when she
started to get tired, he said to her, "If you're falling asleep, I'm
going to buy marijuana."

So about 12:30 a.m. he walked over to Sunnyside cannabis dispensary,
3812 N. Clark St., surprised to be the first person in line. As he
waited, Kennedy became friendly with a man who arrived soon after him.
That man asked Kennedy if he had his ID. He realized he didn't and had
to call his wife to drop it off. She made the delivery, but wasn't
happy about the surprise wake-up call.

"Don't call me again," she warned.

Kennedy, 30, smiled through his thick red beard as he spoke, even as
he explained how he wasn't going to purchase anything to smoke, since
he recently was diagnosed with lung cancer. He originally planned to
purchase a THC patch but later discovered they were only available to
those who were approved to buy medical marijuana.

Instead he decided on a Sativa spray tincture, two packs of Mindy's
Kitchen THC-infused blue raspberry gummies and black cherry CBD
chocolate, for a total of $110. The purchases were mostly for his
wife, but Kennedy said he would likely try the spray later this week.

As Kennedy and others stood at the front of the line early Wednesday,
one of the employees gave them Hot Hands and another threw salt on the
icy sidewalk where people soon would form a line out to the street.
Security guards stood by and directed people to the back.

"You all better make your choices quick," demanded one man who walked
up to the line. "I need a (expletive) joint."

Someone chanted, "Let's smoke pot! Let's smoke pot!"

Someone in the front of the line started playing music on a phone.
Another sang along. Someone else said they had a controversial opinion
that John Lennon's solo work was better than The Beatles. A debate
ensued. Another Sunnyside employee came to pass out merchandise from a
tote bag.

"I finally got a lighter," one man exclaimed.

"Coffee would be nice," another added.

The doors to Uncommon Ground, a restaurant next to Sunnyside, opened
by 5:45 a.m., so people could walk in to stay warm and look at the
menu before going over to the dispensary and buy their product.

The first person to officially buy recreational marijuana at the
location was Jackie Ryan, 35, of Forrest Park.

"I just think this is going to be a great thing in Illinois," she
said. Then, she showed off her newly-acquired $120 collection of
chocolate edibles and pre-rolled joints to news cameras. "Everyone I
know is excited as well." - Paige Fry, 6:30 a.m.

Hundreds of people lined up at Rise Mundelein before the doors opened
at 6 a.m. Some lined up outside the doors before 5 p.m. on Tuesday,
spending New Year's Eve in line.

"I wanted to be first in line to celebrate this," said Aaron Brooks,
43, of Libertyville. "This is like our day."

Brooks said the quantity and quality of products along with taxes
going to the state, are all "a good thing." - Robert McCoppin, 5:30
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt