Chicago police officers will be maintaining a “heightened awareness” of the city’s pot shops when the drug is legalized Wednesday, but they won’t be looking to ticket revelers for getting high outside.
“We are not focused on that at all,” said Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
Though the state legalization law prohibits individuals from sparking up in public, Chicago police officers have been directed to simply inform offenders of the new rules when they take effect instead of taking punitive actions. Guglielmi noted that officers are instead “interested in violence.”
Beat cops and narcotics officers will be on the lookout for individuals looking to rob dispensary patrons braving long lines to get their first taste of legal pot. Those customers make “attractive street robbery targets” because they’ll likely be carrying large amounts of weed and money near the largely cash-only businesses, Guglielmi said.
“Any officer who has a dispensary in their beat, they’re going to make contact with that business and they’re going to be maintaining a heightened presence while they’re not answering other calls for service,” he added.
Paul Stewart, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s point man on pot policy, said officers will seek to “ensure a kind of orderly operation” outside of the nine dispensaries that are expected to be open Wednesday to anyone 21 and older. Stewart likened the expected legalization rush to other events in the city that commonly draw throngs of people, like product releases at Apple stores.
“It’s not like we haven’t encountered things of this nature,” he noted.
In the upcoming weeks and months, Guglielmi said, enforcement will shift to street-level dealers and gangs aiming to undercut the hefty dispensary prices.
An eighth of an ounce of medical marijuana, subject to a 1% state pharmaceutical tax, typically costs around $60 at Illinois dispensaries. That price will be substantially higher for recreational users, who will soon face state taxes between 10% and 25% for pot products.
Chicagoans can currently find an eighth of high-quality cannabis for as cheap as $30 on the street, according to Budzu, a website that aggregates weed prices.
“Gangs are a business, they’re on top of these types of things,” Guglielmi said, adding that the push to offer the most competitive pot prices could potentially lead to a “turf battle.”
“It’s a supply and demand thing.”