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1st man to buy legal recreational pot in state history rang in New Year in line, braved freezing temps

Renzo Mejia, of the West Loop, bought an eighth of an ounce of marijuana at Dispensary 33 in Uptown shortly after 6 a.m.

Renzo Mejia, of the West Loop, shows off his purchase of an eighth of an ounce of Motorbreath OG, the first legal sale of recreational weed in Illinois history.
Renzo Mejia, of the West Loop, shows off his purchase of an eighth of an ounce of Motorbreath OG, the first recreational sale of weed in Illinois history.
Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

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 OG.

With that, the West Loop resident made the first legal purchase of recreational marijuana in Illinois history.

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.”

Abigail Watkins, spokeswoman for Dispensary 33, and Illinois officials confirmed that Mejia’s purchase was the state’s first Wednesday a short time after the sale.

To be first, Mejia rang in the New Year in line — literally.

He took his place outside the store at 5001 N. Clark St. at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday — when the temperature was already below freezing. Temps kept dropping, hitting a low of 24 degrees early Wednesday.

JJ Bloomquist, of Rogers Park, arrived about 15 minutes later and spent the ensuing hours making friends with the other folks biding their time.

Like Mejia, Bloomquist said he wanted to be a part of the historic occasion. However, he’s not a huge weed user.

“I will occasionally take a toke,” he said. “I used to smoke it when I was younger, but I don’t really partake.”

Victoria Kizewic drove two hours from Racine, Wisconsin hoping to buy some edibles and pre-rolled joints and then grab some deep dish pizza 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.”

By the time the store was about to open the atmosphere outside was utterly jovial. As passing drivers rooted their horns and offered support, some people waiting couldn’t hold back their enthusiasm. The line of about 500 stretched down the block and a faint smell of pot lingered in the air as the bundled masses waited to get inside.

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

“Weed is legal,” another woman cheered.

The line later stretched east down Arglyle Street from Clark and winding north onto Glenwood Avenue, extending to Winnemac Avenue.

About 500 people lined up outside Dispensary 33 to be among the first to buy recreational pot in Illinois.
Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

Mejia — who works for Verano Holdings, a pot company based on the Near North Side — has worked in Illinois’ cannabis industry since medical weed was made legal a few years ago and wanted to be part of the historic day.

He was previously a budtender at Dispensary 33 and also holds a medical cannabis card because he suffers from post-concussion syndrome. He insists his desire to be first was deeply personal and was not a marketing ploy.

“It’s very surreal to go from growing weed in a closet in high school and being scared of it drastically negatively impact my life,” said Mejia, who grew up in Portage Park on the Northwest Side and started using marijuana in eighth grade. “If I would’ve been caught with that, I wouldn’t have been able to have some of the professional opportunities I’ve had.”

Motorbreath OG
Dispensary 33

The strain he bought is described by Dispensary 33 as “a cross between the infamous Chemdog D and SFV OG strains. The effects are closely balanced between physical and cerebral, leaning slightly more towards a physically ‘ston-y’ euphoria, with a focusing quality. The aroma is reminiscent of Pinesol, with slight hints of a chemical funk, and a ‘gassy’ finish.”

It’s extremely potent with nearly 33 percent THC, the chemical that makes users high.

Some of the marijuana flower for sale at Dispensary 33 Wednesday.
Tom Schuba/Sun-Times
Customers shop at Dispensary 33 in Uptown.
Tom Schuba/Sun-Times