Customers turned away as recreational weed sales wrap up historic first day in Illinois

The countdown is over for legalized recreational marijuana in Illinois. We’re live-blogging all day with updates from Chicago and the suburbs.

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Recreational marijuana is officially legal across Illinois today. Pot enthusiasts looking to get their first taste of legal weed can expect long lines and limited supplies at dispensaries.

Our journalists Tom Schuba, Rachel Hinton, Ashlee Rezin and Jake Wittich are reporting from dispensaries in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. Follow them on Twitter and check back here throughout the day for our live coverage.

7:21 p.m. Customers turned away at some pot shops; others remain open

NuMed Chicago near West Town had to turn away about a dozen customers about 30 minutes before closing at 7 p.m. due to the sheer volume of people visiting the store.

Only those who had checked in at the dispensary around noon and waited several hours could get inside to be served, said Jonah Rapino, director of marketing for NuMed.

”We’re still closing at 7 p.m., but we’re going to still have people in there at that time, so we won’t be able to let everybody in,” Rapinoe said.

According to Rapinoe, the dispensary ran out of marijuana flower around 4 p.m., but still had plenty of edibles, concentrates and other products. He estimated they served about 500 customers on Wednesday.

One customer, a teacher who asked to remain anonymous, said she had been waiting in line for almost 30 minutes. NuMed was her third stop after being turned away at two other dispensaries where the lines were too long.

”It’s disappointing but to be expected,” she said before asking others in line if they knew any other nearby dispensaries open late.

Everyone who couldn’t get in the store also expressed disappointment, but seemed to understand that there were too many people in line to realistically all be served.

”Everyone’s been so nice, patient and understanding about the long waits today,” Rapinoe said. “We really appreciate that, and look forward to do it all again at 10 a.m. tomorrow.”

—Jake Wittich

4:17 p.m. The best strains to buy

Medical marijuana has been legal in Illinois for several years, and in that time reviewers have tried strains available at pretty much every pot dispensary in the state — and posted their thoughts. Some of the top picks from the state’s most prolific cannabis connoisseurs are Gelato, G6, DJ Short Flo, Lime Sorbet and Cherry Hash Plant.

If smoking isn’t really your thing, edibles are available in many forms — even beef ramen — as are coffee and other beverages infused with THC, pills, tinctures and even lotions. And we have everything you need to know about CBD oil here.

3:29 p.m. New recreational pot shops confirmed

Check out our updated map to find the nearest recreational pot shop.

2:10 p.m. Why were some dispensaries having POS problems?

Several point-of-sale systems at Illinois dispensaries experienced disruptions during the first day of selling recreational marijuana legally in the state.

According to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, a small number of cannabis concentrates were miscoded in the state’s traceability system resulting in single gram concentrates being reported as concentrates that exceeded the concentrate maximum level of 5 total grams.

The state’s traceability system vendor, BioTrack, has already resolved the issue.

Tom Schuba

1:30 p.m. Your weed FAQs: Now that it’s legal, can I smoke weed wherever I want?

No. You still will not be able to legally partake in the street or in public spaces. Local governments can decide whether to allow pot-related businesses, including ones that could allow users to indulge on-site.

Although Chicago Police officers will be monitoring the city’s pot shops today, they won’t be looking to ticket revelers for getting high outside. And you won’t get a citation for smoking marijuana on your porch, patio, balcony or in your backyard.

Hundreds of people waiting in line to get into Midway Dispensary, Wednesday, Jan. 1 2020

Hundreds of people waiting in line to get into Midway Dispensary, Wednesday, Jan. 1 2020

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

12:42 p.m. Long lines worth it at Midway Dispensary

Just before noon, customers at Midway Dispensary were still lining up for over two hours to get inside. 

Will Johnson and Carter Williams showed up about a half hour before doors opened at 10 a.m. and were just nearing the front of the massive line.

“At this point, I’m not leaving until I get my stuff,” said Williams.

Both men, who drove in from the nearby suburbs, said they were happy to ditch their unreliable dealers for legal pot shops that offer convenience and a variety of high-quality pot products.

“We’re in Chicago where weed’s been illegal all of our lives,” Johnson said. “You get a chance to get some legal weed and you don’t gotta call a drug dealer and ask them what do they have, are they up, all that type of [stuff].

“You don’t gotta worry about some weed not smoking right, tasting right. You can go get it yourself,” added Johnson, who planned to buy the most potent hybrid flower strain at the shop.

Midway was limiting the amount of flower and other products recreational customers could buy. 

Instead of 30 grams, which is the amount that’s now legal to buy in a single visit, patrons were only able to get 11.5 grams. That could be broken up into a gram of flower or a pre-rolled joint, plus an additional eighth of an ounce of flower and a quarter ounce of “shake” — which is ground cannabis.

“What we were worried about was people not being able to get what they want,” said Neal McQueeney, the shop’s principal officer. “But they’re so excited, they’re so patient. They’ve been amazing.”

Will Johnson and Carter Williams in front of Midway Dispensary

Will Johnson and Carter Williams in front of Midway Dispensary

Tom Schuba

Tom Schuba

11:57 a.m. Here’s a look at the lines outside Illinois pot shops this morning

A little cold and snow couldn’t stop Illinois residents from lining up to buy marijuana on the first day of its legalization in the state.

Check out the lines outside Chicago and suburban dispensaries from our reporters on the scene.

10:53 a.m. South Chicago dispensary owner, customers celebrate cannabis legalization

About 10 a.m., roughly 100 people were standing in two lines outside the Mission dispensary at 8554 S. Commercial Ave. One was for customers who ordered online; the other was for everybody else.

Due to the influx of new customers, the store was capping recreational sales at $300 before tax to make sure everybody could get something. Despite the sales limit, dispensary President Kris Krane said he wasn’t concerned about running out of product Wednesday.

“We will probably reassess after the first couple days and see if we need to bring those purchase limits down based on how our inventory’s holding up and what becomes available in the wholesale market,” Krane said.

Though a computer glitch disrupted sales for around 20 minutes in the morning, the problem was quickly remedied. Hundreds of people had already been through the doors, according to Krane, who said legalization day was easily the busiest in the store’s history.

For Krane, the enthusiasm was “heartwarming.”

“To see this many people be able to come and purchase cannabis legally in a store that we’ve taken a lot of pride in building that we think is a professional and welcoming and community-oriented environment,” he said. “For them to be able to be here and buy cannabis here with no stigma, no fear of arrest, this is what we’ve been working towards.”

For decades, Krane fought for cannabis legalization as the associate director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the executive director of Students for Responsible Drug Policy. To honor that legacy, the store was recently outfitted with a timeline of cannabis legalization.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done. And while we have this freedom and the ability to enjoy, there’s still people who are sitting in cages in other parts of the country for engaging in the exact same behavior.”

A woman waiting outside the shop, who works as a sociologist and asked not to be named, noted that just hours earlier people would have been breaking the law by possessing a product that can now be bought legally. 

“Since the powers that be decided that we can do it, here we are,” she said. “And to me, that’s a little bit mind-blowing.”

The woman said she was happy about the provisions of the pot law that aim to right the wrongs of the drug war by wiping clean criminal convictions and bolstering minority ownership and participation in the industry.

“But if it ends up being a reproduction of the same things that we’ve seen before — rich white men get to benefit from it and no one else — then it’s kind of pointless,” she said.

She planned to buy some edibles from the store and enjoy the rest of New Year’s Day — possibly with an afternoon nap.

Mission dispensary’s President Kris Krane

Mission President Kris Krane

Tom Schuba/Sun-Times file photo

Tom Schuba

10:15 a.m. Yes, marijuana is legal in Illinois — but it’ll cost you

This is a receipt for G6 Sunrock Shatter and a vape cart at The Herbal Care Center. The subtotal was $130, and the taxes come to $45.83.

Receipt from The Herbal Care Center

Receipt from The Herbal Care Center

Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

— Tom Schuba

9:33 a.m. Florida grandmother stocks up on vaping pens to avoid black market

Parmelia Herrera, 57, of Florida, was visiting her son and decided to stock up on vape pens at The Herbal Care Center, 1301 S. Western Ave. Her son didn’t join her for the shopping trip because “he doesn’t smoke.”

Herrera, who has been using cannabis since she was 16, said she’s been concerned about buying black-market products after a mysterious vape-related illness started sweeping the nation.

“You don’t have to worry about what’s in it when you buy from these places,” said Herrera, who favors vaping cannabis because it doesn’t smell. That’s important because she doesn’t want her grandchildren to know she gets high.

Herrera is flying back to Florida Wednesday night and hopes the cops at the airports she’s traveling through don’t unearth her stash.

— Tom Schuba

9:02 a.m. First Rise Joliet customers feel relieved, excited

Nick Slusinski and his wife, Jennifer, of Plainfield, got in line at 1:30 a.m. and were the first customers to enter Rise Joliet.

”We don’t have to hide it anymore, we don’t have to feel guilty, I guess,” said Jennifer. “I can’t wait for the edibles.”

”We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” said Nick. 

Inside, Joliet Police Officer Jeremy Eaton admired the beautiful morning.

“I’ve been pro-cannabis for a long time,” he said. “It always should have been legalized. We need to break that stigma about police and cannabis and I want to let people know that we’re not the bad guy.”

Joliet Police Officer Jeremy Eaton chats with customers at Rise Joliet, a cannabis dispensary in southwest suburban Joliet, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Illinois, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020.

Joliet Police Officer Jeremy Eaton chats with customers at Rise Joliet, a cannabis dispensary in southwest suburban Joliet, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Illinois, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

— Ashlee Rezin

8:30 a.m. Inside pot shop, ‘It’s a mob scene’

Michael Mandera, general manager at The Herbal Care Center, 1301 S. Western Ave., said there were 40 or 50 people in line when he showed up at 5 a.m. Within an hour, when the store opened, the line ballooned to a couple hundred people.

“It’s a mob scene,” Mandera said.

By 8 a.m., some visitors were drinking free coffee and cocoa from a nearby Dunkin and others were waiting in warming tents set up to accommodate the overflow from the store. 

Inside, recreational customers were being informed every 15 minutes that there was no flower or pre-rolled joints available for them to buy. That’s because the store in trying to ensure medical patients aren’t left in the lurch, Mandera said.

Michael Mandera, general manager at The Herbal Care Center, 1301 S. Western

Michael Mandera, general manager at The Herbal Care Center, 1301 S. Western Ave.

Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

Tom Schuba

7:41 a.m. Dispensary employees recommend medical cards

At the massive line outside Dispensary 33, a few employees are walking the line letting folks know they can dodge recreational taxes if they get a medical card.

A medical cannabis card also allows buyers to skip lines at dispensaries and guarantees a consistent pot supply as dispensaries across the state are expected to quickly deplete their stash of marijuana reserved for recreational customers.

Illinois’ medical pot program, made permanent in August, has undergone a massive expansion after years of stringent control while it was a pilot. In addition to the 52 conditions covered by the program — including post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and autism — state residents who have been prescribed opioid painkillers can now access medical marijuana through the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program.

The new, streamlined process means you might be able to start buying weed less than 24 hours after submitting an application.

— Tom Schuba

7:27 a.m. More than 500 people lined up in Uptown

The line outside Dispensary 33, 5001 N. Clark St, in Chicago, was more than 500-people deep by 6:30 a.m., stretching east along Arglyle Street and north onto Glenwood Avenue to Winnemac Avenue.

Victoria Kizewic drove two hours from Racine, Wisconsin, hoping to buy some edibles and prerolled joints and then grab some deep dish before driving home.

“This is the first day that it’s legal,” said Kizewic, who came with two friends. “You wanna be there to tell future generations.”

— Tom Schuba

6:38 a.m. Crowd grows at Joliet pot shop

About 30 people lined up as early as 1:30 a.m. outside Rise, a marijuana shop in southwest suburban Joliet. A Joliet police officer greeted customers while directing traffic, saying: “It’s a beautiful morning!”

Inside, customers said the shop resembled an Apple Store.

But already, there were some problems.

“The state system is having a glitch right now with our edibles,” said one employee. The shop was only selling cannabis flower, prerolled joints and vaping devices for the time being.

— Ashlee Rezin Garcia

6:19 a.m. Lines form in Oak Park

Workers at MedMen Oak Park passed out hand warmers to the line of about three dozen people outside.

They informed waiting customers they would be limiting purchases of cannabis flower to an 1/8 ounce but will still sell the legal limits of 5 grams of concentrate and 500 mg of edibles.


Customers line up outside MedMen pot shop in Oak Park.

Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

6:08 a.m. Recreational weed sales kick off

Shortly after 6 a.m. Wednesday, Renzo Mejia walked into Chicago’s Dispensary 33 and, after perusing a menu, bought an eighth of an ounce of Motorbreath.

With that, the West Loop resident made the first legal purchase of recreational marijuana at the Uptown dispensary — and in the state.

As soon as the order processed, a cheer permeated through the small showroom floor and employees and customers embraced.

“To be able to have [recreational marijuana] here is just mind-boggling,” said Mejia, who paid about $80 for his purchase. “To be able to now make the first purchase in Chicago, it’s just surreal.”

Outside, where Mejia lined up at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday to be the first in line, the atmosphere around the store was jovial. As passing drivers rooted their horns and offered support, some people waiting couldn’t hold back their enthusiasm.

“Guys, we’re making history, right here in Illinois,” one woman shouted.

“Weed is legal,” another woman cheered.

The line of about 500 stretched down the block and a faint smell of pot lingered in the air as the bundled mass waited to get inside.

Read more of Tom Schuba’s story on the first sale here.


About 500 people lined up outside Dispensary 33 to be among the first to buy recreational pot in Illinois.

Tom Schuba/Sun-Times


Customers peruse the offerings at Dispensary 33.

Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

6 a.m. Customers line up outside Sunnyside in Lake View


Customers line up at the Sunnyside cannabis dispensary in Lake View.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times


Customers wait outside Sunnyside in Lake View.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times


Customers braved the cold outside Sunnyside dispensary in Lake View to get a chance to be among the first to buy recreational pot in Illinois.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

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