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Long lines, limited supply and only 9 places to shop: Here’s what to expect in Chicago when weed becomes legal Jan. 1

Some stores plan to open their doors as early as 6 a.m. to deal with the anticipated rush of customers for recreational marijuana.

Jerred Kiloh, owner of the licensed medical marijuana dispensary Higher Path, stocks shelves with cannabis products in Los Angeles.
Soon recreational marijuana dispensaries will be stocking their shelves with cannabis products.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Chicagoans excited to legally buy weed for the first time on Jan. 1 will likely have to wait in line to get in to the dispensaries in the city that will be selling recreational marijuana — and they will likely have a limited amount of pot products on their shelves.

What’s more, with state lawmakers warning of an imminent supply shortage, only nine of the 10 shops permitted to make recreational sales of the drug in Chicago will be doing so. Maribis of Chicago in Brighton Park said Thursday it won’t sell to recreational customers until February.

Purchase limits

Midway Dispensary in Vittum Park plans to limit the amount of cannabis recreational customers can purchase based on how much product the dispensary has in stock when those sales come online.

“I hope that we’re gonna do enough with the cultivators to meet the needs of everybody, but it is a possibility that we’re gonna run out of product,” said Leo Barajas, general manager at Midway.

However, representatives for other stores said sales won’t be capped under the amount allowed by law. Illinoisans will legally be allowed to buy 30 grams of marijuana flower, five grams of cannabis concentrate and infused products containing a half gram of THC. Customers from outside the state will be able to buy half those amounts.

Brittney Foley, manager of Zen Leaf in Norwood Park, said she’s not terribly concerned about her store’s supply drying up.

“We have a decent amount of stuff,” Foley said. “And if we have to stop recreational sales to keep up with our medical, then that’s what we’d have to do.”

With regulators doling out licenses incrementally, the number of dispensaries permitted to sell recreational cannabis on Jan. 1 is still subject to change. GreenGate Chicago in Rogers Park is among the 18 medical shops that haven’t yet been issued a license to also sell recreational cannabis.

What’s for sale?

To see what’s for sale at the dispensaries, you can check their websites, most of which are updated based on what they have in stock.

Because they’re all sourcing weed from the same 21 growers that have earned licenses to cultivate both medical and recreational pot, many of those stores carry a lot of the same brands and products.

That includes a line of edible products produced by Cresco Labs and crafted by the James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Mindy Segal, which are currently available at multiple stores including the Cresco-owned Sunnyside Dispensary in Lake View and NuMed in West Town. Midway stocks nearly 100 different vape cartridges, including Ataraxia’s take on the popular indica-dominant Gelato strain and GTI’s version of Jack Herer, an award-winning sativa varietal named for the eponymous cannabis rights activist and author.

Cash — and some alternative payment accepted

Though many of the city’s dispensaries only take cash, a few accept certain alternative payment methods.

Customers at Columbia Care in Jefferson Park will be able to pay with the pot firm’s Columbia National Credit Card, which can be applied for in-store or through the mail. Sunnyside is the only shop that directly accepts debit cards, while Mission in South Shore takes payments through CanPay, an app similar to PayPal that allows users to pay with debit through a third-party vendor.

You’ll need a government-issued ID to get in to prove you are 21.

Columbia Care in Jefferson Park allows you to pay with its credit card in addition to cash.

Doors open early, free coffee

Sunnyside, Mission and The Herbal Care Center on the Near West Side will all open their doors as soon as sales kick off at 6 a.m. on Jan. 1.

Some of the shops have come up with creative ways to both manage crowds and keep antsy pot users warm on a potentially frigid January morning.

At Sunnyside, customers will be able to wait inside Uncommon Ground, a neighboring restaurant where they can select products before picking up orders and paying at the dispensary. Meanwhile, The Herbal Care Center is setting up warming tents outside the store and offering up free coffee and cocoa.

Customers at Modern Cannabis in Logan Square will be able to wait inside Emporium, a neighboring arcade bar that shares owners with the dispensary, and Dispensary 33 in Uptown plans to use a paging system to keep track of customers who are being encouraged to patronize neighboring businesses as they wait.

“Having people standing outside for hours on a day like Jan. 1 is kind of crazy,” said Abigail Watkins, spokeswoman for Dispensary 33.

Medical patients will have priority

All of the city’s dispensaries are taking efforts to make sure existing medical customers aren’t left in the lurch, like granting them expedited access to the store or allowing them to skip lines altogether. Under state law, all dispensaries are required to keep a monthly inventory of medical cannabis on hand that’s comparable to the average amount that was sold in the six months leading up to the implementation of the new legislation.

Some shops will offer promotions for medical patients but not recreational customers.

“You wanna be able to get the bang for your buck,” Morales noted.