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