Nav­i­gat­ing recre­ational pot land­scape

How, where and what you’ll be able to buy in Illi­nois start­ing Jan. 1

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ally Marotti

When mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries open their doors for recre­ational sales in Illi­nois on Jan. 1, cus­tomers will walk into a shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence more akin to a Wal­greens or Ap­ple store than a stereo­typ­i­cal pot shop.

Many com­pa­nies have re­made med­i­cal mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries to be bright, tech­nol­ogy-driven and stream­lined. Here’s what you need to know be­fore you head to a dis­pen­sary on Jan. 1.

Where can I buy mar­i­juana?

So far, 32 op­er­at­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana stores around the state have re­ceived all needed ap­provals to sell recre­ational weed.

The state is ap­prov­ing ap­pli­ca­tions from ex­ist­ing dis­pen­saries on a rolling ba­sis, but if a mu­nic­i­pal­ity votes down recre­ational sales, the state ap­proval is moot. Res­i­dents of com­mu­ni­ties such as Naperville and Ar­ling­ton Heights, for ex­am­ple, will have to go to a dif­fer­ent town to legally buy weed.

Illi­nois has yet to start award­ing li­censes to stores that weren’t al­ready sell­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

What can I buy?

Mar­i­juana flower — the buds that can be smoked — typ­i­cally is the most pop­u­lar item among recre­ational con­sumers, par­tially

“Even if they have ex­pe­ri­ence with cannabis, (they) don’t have ex­pe­ri­ence with all the kinds of cannabis avail­able on the le­gal mar­ket.”

— Kris Krane, pres­i­dent and co-founder of 4Front Ven­tures

be­cause it’s fa­mil­iar and peo­ple know what to do with it.

There are also ed­i­ble cho­co­lates, cook­ies and gum­mies, cannabis-in­fused patches and rubs for sore mus­cles, tinc­tures that can be dropped un­der the tongue and con­cen­trates in var­i­ous forms.

Illi­nois dis­pen­saries are ex­pected to sell dozens of dif­fer­ent prod­ucts at the be­gin­ning of recre­ational sales. In the first full year of recre­ational sales, flower is ex­pected to make up 55% of sales, edi­bles to com­prise 22% and con­cen­trates 20%, ac­cord­ing to data from Chicago-based cannabis re­search firm Bright­field Group.

Do I need to bring my state ID or driver’s li­cense?

Yes. Only peo­ple 21 and older are al­lowed to buy mar­i­juana. Cus­tomers will be re­quired to show their ID be­fore en­ter­ing a store.

How much can I buy?

The law al­lows pos­ses­sion of 30 grams or about 1 ounce of flower, which is about as much as an adult can hold in cupped hands. Adults also can have 5 grams of cannabis con­cen­trate for va­p­ing, or 500 mil­ligrams of the psy­choac­tive in­gre­di­ent THC in cannabis-in­fused prod­ucts.

Stores won’t be able to sell more than the le­gal limit in a sin­gle trans­ac­tion, said Chris Slaby, spokesman for the Illi­nois Depart­ment of Fi­nan­cial and Pro­fes­sional Reg­u­la­tion.

It’s up to in­di­vid­ual con­sumers to make sure they don’t posses more weed than al­lowed, but there’s noth­ing to stop them from shop­ping at mul­ti­ple dis­pen­saries.

How­ever, most stores ex­pect the sup­ply of mar­i­juana prod­ucts to run low dur­ing the first six months or so of sales. If that oc­curs, re­tail­ers might limit how much recre­ational cus­tomers can buy, or sell only to med­i­cal pa­tients.

What if I’m com­ing from out of state?

Vis­i­tors, or those with out-of-state IDs, may pos­sess up to 15 grams of mar­i­juana.

It must be kept in a sealed con­tainer and in­ac­ces­si­ble while driv­ing. It’s il­le­gal to take mar­i­juana across state lines, so it must be con­sumed be­fore leav­ing Illi­nois. Us­ing weed in a car or plane is banned.

How do I pay for it?

Most dis­pen­saries only ac­cept cash. Mar­i­juana is still fed­er­ally il­le­gal, which means most banks don’t work with com­pa­nies in the in­dus­try. The same goes for credit card com­pa­nies and pay­ment pro­ces­sors. Many dis­pen­saries have on-site

ATMs, and some have pay­ment sys­tems that ac­cept debit or ATM cards.

Mar­i­juana prices can vary, de­pend­ing on the prod­uct and its po­tency.

With med­i­cal mar­i­juana sales, the av­er­age trans­ac­tion at Mis­sion South Shore dis­pen­sary in the South Chicago neigh­bor­hood is about $80, said gen­eral man­ager Rick Arm­strong. At Mid­way Dis­pen­sary near the air­port, a cus­tomer could get a 10pack of cannabis-in­fused gum­mies, or a cou­ple of pre-rolled, ready-to-smoke joints for $20 to $30.

Taxes vary by prod­uct and by THC con­tent, which is dis­played on pack­ag­ing. Mar­i­juana-in­fused prod­ucts will be taxed at 20%. All other mar­i­juana with 35% THC or less will be taxed at 10%, and mar­i­juana with THC con­tent higher than 35% will be taxed at 25%.

That’s in ad­di­tion to stan­dard state and lo­cal sales taxes. Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties also can col­lect up to 3% in mar­i­juana taxes, and many, in­clud­ing Deer­field and Buf­falo Grove, have de­cided to do so.

Will I be able to see the weed be­fore buy­ing?

No. Illi­nois re­tail­ers must keep prod­ucts locked up be­fore a sale.

Med­i­cal dis­pen­saries usu­ally dis­play empty prod­uct pack­ag­ing, so con­sumers can pick up the pack­ages and read the de­scrip­tions. Some have touch-screen com­put­ers or tablets where cus­tomers look through the menu of prod­ucts and learn about the fla­vor pro­files and THC con­tent.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, med­i­cal dis­pen­saries will get sam­ple jars with per­fo­rated tops so con­sumers can smell the cannabis be­fore buy­ing. Some hang prod­uct posters through­out the dis­pen­sary, so cus­tomers can see a pic­ture of what they’re buy­ing. Only af­ter a cus­tomer makes a pur­chase is the prod­uct handed over. The same process is ex­pected with recre­ational sales.

Will I have to wait in line?

Prob­a­bly. Most dis­pen­saries have wait­ing ar­eas for cus­tomers af­ter they present their ID to se­cu­rity and be­fore they go into the re­tail area. Some of those ar­eas are very small.

The line likely will move slowly in the early days of recre­ational sales, as work­ers take time to ed­u­cate cus­tomers and talk through the avail­able prod­ucts, said Kris Krane, pres­i­dent and co-founder of 4Front Ven­tures, which owns the Mis­sion dis­pen­sary.

“Even if they have ex­pe­ri­ence with cannabis, (they) don’t have ex­pe­ri­ence with all the kinds of cannabis avail­able on the le­gal mar­ket,” he said.

Can I or­der on­line?

Many stores will al­low cus­tomers to pre-or­der on­line, and pay when they pick up their or­der. Cus­tomers still must show their ID to get inside the store.

Can I light up as soon as I leave the store?

No. The law bans smok­ing in streets, parks and other pub­lic ar­eas. Con­do­minium as­so­ci­a­tions can also pro­hibit on-site smok­ing.

Chicago res­i­dents will be able to smoke weed in their bal­conies or back­yards with­out be­ing tick­eted.

Where grown?

is the weed

Mar­i­juana can­not legally be trans­ported across state lines, so ev­ery­thing pur­chased at a dis­pen­sary in Illi­nois was grown in the state. It’s the same mar­i­juana that’s be­ing grown for med­i­cal use.

Does mar­i­juana go bad?

Most prod­ucts have a sell-by date. Edi­bles typ­i­cally ex­pire in three to six months, and cannabis-in­fused con­cen­trates last about a year, said Mis­sion’s


The ex­pi­ra­tion date speaks more to the qual­ity of the prod­uct, he said. The effects it has on a user will be the same, but flower might dry out, for ex­am­ple, or cannabis-in­fused cho­co­late might melt.

Con­cen­trates last the long­est. Arm­strong from Mis­sion rec­om­mends stor­ing cannabis prod­ucts at about 65 de­grees and keep­ing them out of sun­light. If cannabis flower dries out, seal­ing an orange peel in with the mar­i­juana for a day or two will re-moisten it.

Does mar­i­juana ever go on sale?

For med­i­cal pa­tients, many dis­pen­saries of­fer deals on cer­tain days of the week and those dis­counts are ex­pected to be of­fered to recre­ational buy­ers. Oth­ers run pro­mo­tions or have loy­alty pro­grams.


Tags with prod­uct in­for­ma­tion hang at the Mis­sion Dis­pen­sary in Chicago.


Kris Krane, pres­i­dent and co-founder of 4Front Ven­tures, which owns the Mis­sion Dis­pen­sary, shows tags with prod­uct in­for­ma­tion for cus­tomers.

Wil­liam Gra­biec, left, is as­sisted with his pur­chases by agent Dy­lon Wil­liams at the Mid­way Dis­pen­sary in Chicago in Oc­to­ber.

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