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Afternoon Edition: Oct. 28, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

Jars of smokable cannabis flower are stacked on top of one another at NuEra Cannabis.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

After a couple of gray days, we finally get some sunshine today; this afternoon’s high will be near 52 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 40 degrees. Enjoy this afternoon’s weather because tomorrow we’re back to cloudy skies: the high will be 49 degrees.

Top story

Illinois pot shops are now rolling in bud, so why does an eighth of weed still cost $80?

Customers waited in line for hours in January to buy legal pot for the first time, only to learn there were limits on purchases — and some stores weren’t even selling smokeable cannabis flower to recreational customers.

But since persistent supply shortages marred the rollout of recreational pot, cultivators have scaled up their operations to meet Illinois’ growing demand for legal weed. Now, 10 months later, pot store shelves are consistently stocked with flower.

But another issue remains: prices are still sky high.

According to industry analysts, Illinois has the most expensive pot in the country. Budzu, a crowdsourcing site that tracks the price of cannabis, says the average cost for an eighth of an ounce is roughly $62. In Colorado, the same amount costs around $33.

“That is the number one complaint that we get on our reviews,” said Jonah Rapino, a spokesman for Wheaton-based NuEra, which operates three Illinois dispensaries and one of the state’s 21 cultivation centers. “They’re blaming us, like, ‘How could you do this to us? How could you charge us this much money? You’re evil capitalist monsters.’”

Though hefty taxes are tacked on, NuEra’s location in West Town is charging $80 for an eighth of an ounce of some flower varietals. Cannabis consultant Andy Seeger claimed the “obscene” prices at dispensaries across Illinois are being “artificially created” by the state’s few growers.

“Their willingness to drop prices is theirs alone,” added Seeger. “No one’s forcing them to. There’s almost no competition to this point.”

Bryan Zises, owner of Dispensary 33 in Uptown, also placed the onus on the growers, saying that prices are merely “passed along.”

“Talk to Cresco [Labs] and PharmaCann about that,” said Zises, referencing two firms that grow and sell cannabis in Illinois. “Any cost savings that we get, we will pass to our customers.”

Cresco spokesman Jason Erkes said he doesn’t know what it will take to bring prices down, though he claimed the company now has “more weed than there are stores to sell it.” But that’s only because the River North-based pot giant scaled up production at its three cultivation sites “to prepare for the next round of licenses to be issued,” Erkes noted. The state’s plan to issue 130 new pot shop licenses has been foiled by the coronavirus outbreak and an ongoing licensing imbroglio.

Jeremy Unruh, a spokesman for PharmaCann, painted a different picture of the output coming from his company’s grow center in Dwight. Unruh said that though the supply issues have started to stabilize, the state “is going to need more product on the market” for prices to drop.

“Because [cannabis] is scarce, there’s still a premium associated with it,” Unruh said. “Once we have more retail locations open and once there is a more robust supply, I definitely think you’re going to see prices come down.”

This story doesn’t end here. Read Tom Schuba’s full report.

More news you need

  1. A day after Mayor Lori Lightfoot criticized Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s enhanced COVID-19 restrictions that prohibit indoor dining service in the city and said she’d try to persuade him not to implement them, Pritzker said he wouldn’t budge on his restaurant crackdown. Friday will be closing time for Chicago’s restaurants.
  2. Lawyers for Marcellis Stinnett and Tafara Williams, two Black people who were shot by Waukegan police, said today that video shared by authorities showed a bullet-riddled car but not the entire incident. “We don’t have the transparency. We don’t have the truth,” Antonio Romanucci said.
  3. Following a New York Times story about President Donald Trump’s Chicago hotel and tower financial woes — and how he outmaneuvered his lenders and avoided taxes — the president struck back on Twitter today. “As a developer long ago, and continuing to this day, the politicians ran Chicago into the ground,” Trump’s tweet begins.
  4. The “Dread Head Cowboy” said he sold his four remaining horses and fired his lawyer after the two got into argument following a status hearing in his animal cruelty case today. Adam Hollingsworth is facing charges for riding his horse on the Dan Ryan Expressway.
  5. Cook County is launching a $4 million program to provide training, placement, and layoff aversion for those in the suburbs impacted by COVID-19. Here’s how residents and employers can check their eligibility.
  6. One year after raising the annual aldermanic expense allowance to $122,000 to build support for her first budget, Lightfoot is snatching back that 26% increase, forcing aldermen to share the pain in her pandemic budget. Instead of budgeting $6.1 million for the annual aldermanic expense allowance, the city will return to spending $4.85 million.
  7. The mere smell of weed can still prompt cops to search a vehicle in Illinois — despite the state fully legalizing the drug at the start of the year. Tom Schuba breaks down what you should know about what constitutes probable cause for a search.

A bright one

‘The Craft: Legacy’: The sequel’s magic lies in its respect for teen issues

With a “second surge” of coronavirus cases in full swing, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker restricting bars and restaurants to outdoor service only, chances are you’ll probably be staying in this Halloweekend.

Luckily, a new movie dropped today that’s perfect for a night in on the last weekend of October: “The Craft: Legacy.” Our film critic, Richard Roeper, gave it a glowing review. Here’s a excerpt:

One of the best badass teen horror movies of the 1990s was the surprise hit “The Craft” (1996), with Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell and Rachel True as a quartet of fringe outcasts at a posh parochial school who discover their inner witches and cause all manner of havoc. It was like “Clueless” meets “Carrie,” and amid all the supernatural madness, it took on issues such as racist bullying, domestic violence and the power dynamic between social classes of teenagers.

Now comes “The Craft: Legacy,” and it’s a worthy companion piece on both fronts. It brings the supernatural drive-in movie thrills galore but also intelligently and respectfully explores a number of timely and relevant issues, from the journey of a transgender character to why it’s still not easy for a stereotypically macho jock to come out.

“The Craft: Legacy” is a smart, edgy, wickedly funny and wild ride. And while the film works as a stand-alone film and it’s a not a prerequisite for you to see “The Craft” before seeing this one, I highly recommend you DO see the original first, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Read film critic Richard Roeper’s full review here.

From the press box

The biggest issue with the Bears’ offense right now? The man who hired the coach, picked the QBs and assembled the offensive line. Whatever their problems are on that side of the ball, “it all comes back to [GM Ryan] Pace,” Rick Morrissey writes.

And star receiver Allen Robinson, who left the loss to the Rams after a big hit led an official to send him to the sideline, is currently in the NFL’s concussion protocol, coach Matt Nagy said today.

Your daily question ☕

What’s your favorite Halloween-themed movie? Why is it your go-to?

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: What do you think of Judge Amy Coney Barrett being confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court? Here’s what some of you said…

“Her inexperience is shocking! Barrett has never tried a case to verdict or argued an appeal in any court, nor has she ever performed any notable pro bono work, even during law school. And she hadn’t served as a judge until 2017. She is wholly UNQUALIFIED for the highest court in the land.” — Phyllis Rivera

“I think it’s awesome! Judge Barrett appears to be extremely educated regarding the law and composed beyond belief. There’s a place for everyone at the table: educated in the Midwest and raising a houseful of children while on the court.” — Carol Kohler

“It’s a travesty. Sad day for women in our country. RBG is rolling in her grave!” — Kelly Nagle Shanley

“I fought when I was young for the right to vote, equal employment opportunity, right to choose my own health care and love whom I wanted. I foresee fighting for it all again.” — Rachelle Wilson

“She is a brilliant and well qualified jurist. She will be a great addition to the court.” — Patty Cole Raasch

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