Sales of recreational pot — and long lines for buyers — resume on second day of legalization

“It feels like Prohibition has been lifted again — like it was back in my grandparents’ time,” one man said.

SHARE Sales of recreational pot — and long lines for buyers — resume on second day of legalization
Customers wait outside Sunnyside, a pot dispensary in Wrigleyville.

Customers wait outside Sunnyside, a pot dispensary in Wrigleyville, before it opens Thursday for the second day of legal sales of recreational marijuana in Illinois.

Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

Kayte Moody and her boyfriend, Jack Crawford, drove 4 1/2 hours from Kentucky Wednesday — only to be turned away from a North Side pot dispensary because too many people were ahead of them in line.

So the 20-something couple rose early Thursday to be sure they wouldn’t encounter the same problem.

“We wanted to be part of the experience. Anywhere in the country, we’ve got to fly to go experience something like this,” said Crawford, as he and Moody stepped out of Sunnyside, a dispensary on the North Side.

Both carried little tangerine shopping bags containing gummies and smokeable marijuana flower.

To be sure, lines were long Thursday. How they compared to the first day of legal pot sales in Illinois wasn’t always clear. Store managers either referred questions to corporate types or said they were too busy to talk.

By 9:05 a.m., about 130 people were waiting in line at Sunnyside. To avoid blocking the sidewalk in front of other businesses, customers were directed by a security team to a vacant store on the other side of the street, about a block away. They were then led in groups of 12 or so back to the pot shop.

“I don’t work until the weekend. So I figured I’d just come by, stand in line and see how long it takes,” said Ross Berman, 29, an online journalist who writes about wrestling and lives in Lake View. “If I can get in, great. If they still have stuff available, even better.”

People lined up early Jan. 1 before Sunnyside opened in Lake View for the first day of legal sales of recreational marijuana.

People lined up early Wednesday before Sunnyside opened for the first day of legal sales of recreational marijuana. Some people skipped the first day to avoid the lines, but Sunnyside also had dozens of people waiting when it opened on Thursday.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times files

Toi Hutchinson, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s senior adviser on cannabis control, said officials knew the long lines were coming and were grateful for a “mostly quiet” rollout day.

More than 77,000 transactions were made at Illinois dispensaries Wednesday, racking up nearly $3.2 million in sales of pot products. 

“There were folks who just showed up from the neighborhood with coffee and doughnuts. For people waiting in lines, we heard reports of one very enterprising gentleman who showed up with a taco truck. It was awesome,” Hutchinson said.

“Those lines show that there’s an incredible opportunity to grow this industry.”

By late afternoon at Sunnyside, hundreds of people were in line at Sunnyside. Jason Erkes, a spokesman for Sunnyside, said crowds Thursday rivaled those from the day before. He said the dispensary had put limits on some products, “to make sure everyone has a chance to participate in this historic day.” But he also said there’s still “plenty of selection of products in each category.”

Not everyone was willing to wait in a long line. A 30-year-old man who agreed to be identified only as “Anthony,” said he and his girlfriend didn’t like the wait at Sunnyside. They headed to NuMed Chicago, in the 1300 block of North Avenue, where lines appeared to be slightly shorter.

Anthony did say, however, that long lines were to be expected.

“It feels like Prohibition has been lifted again — like it was back in my grandparents’ time,” he said.

Keith Thornton, from Matteson, said he’d thought about heading to a dispensary on Wednesday but didn’t want to deal with the long lines.

“The prices, they’re a little higher than what’s on the black/street markets, but ... you get a different choice and you get a lot of different organics that can be a little more safer,” said Thornton, who said he uses pot to control chronic bank pain. “At the end of the day, you know you’re not going to get robbed coming here.”

Lines remained long elsewhere, too. Michael Mandera, manager and spokesman for The Herbal Care Center, at 1301 S. Western, said the line was about half-a-block to nearly a block long when the dispensary opened Thursday. He also said he had a limited supply of marijuana flower, so recreational buyers seeking that particular product were out of luck.

“I’m going to continue to not sell any flowers to my recreational customers,” Mandera said. “I’ve got to protect my nearly 3,000 medical patients. Until supply from cultivation can pick up, I don’t feel comfortable doing that.”

Long lines formed outside The Herbal Care Center on Wednesday, the first day one could legally buy recreational marijuana products in Illinois.

Long lines outside of The Herbal Care Center on Wednesday. At the back of the line are warming tents set up for customers waiting outside. Anyone hoping for a shorter wait Thursday may have been disappointed, as long lines formed again at this and other pot dispensaries.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Contributing: Mitchell Armentrout

The Latest
After a season as the worst team in the NFL, the Bears have a long list of needs. Here’s a look at how to fill some of them in the draft.
Finding an unbroken, contiguous stretch of open land is hard in an urban area. Some environmentalists worry this idea is on the back burner.
The Central Manufacturing District has been largely uninhabited in recent decades, leaving many of these important buildings unused — and unprotected.
Let’s enact this fairer primary calendar and move on to other business: defending workers, strengthening democracy — and making sure the 2024 Democratic National Convention is in Chicago.