1st Chicago-area marijuana consumption lounge opens on weed’s ‘high’ holiday: ‘This is the best 4/20 celebration’

At one point Wednesday, the smoke detectors at Rise were set off by someone vaping, prompting a brief evacuation and a visit from the fire department.

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Colden Collins rolls up a joint at RISE at 1325 Armour Blvd in Mundelein, Illinois, Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The Chicago area’s first cannabis consumption lounge opened its doors Wednesday, bringing the bong-ripping masses to north suburban Mundelein for 4/20 — weed’s unofficial “high” holiday.

With a soundtrack of stoner anthems playing in the background, plumes of smoke hung overhead as groups lit up in an exclusive area tucked inside Green Thumb Industries’ Rise dispensary at 1325 Armour Blvd.

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A firetruck arrives on the scene after fire alarm is triggered at RISE at 1325 Armour Blvd in Mundelein, Illinois, Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

At one point, smoke detectors went off throughout the store, prompting a brief evacuation and a visit from the fire department. Bill Lark, chief of the Mundelein Fire Department, said the alarm was set off by someone vaping in a bathroom, not the heavy clouds that filled the smoking area.

Aside from that interruption, the scene at the quaint bar-like lounge was mellow but jovial. At one table, three friends who traveled from Wisconsin passed joints, sipped Cokes and had a few laughs.

“This is the best 4/20 celebration,” said Jodi, 54, who withheld her last name fearing retribution from work.

“It’s just an excuse to get high,” interjected her pal Sandy, 65, who also declined to give up her full name because she didn’t want her niece to know she’s “been smoking dope.”

Although state law allows pot consumption spaces at dispensaries and licensed tobacco shops with local approval, they’re still rare over two years after weed was fully legalized. Rise, which is tucked away in an industrial corridor, is now the first pot shop in Illinois to house one, though a few tobacco establishments allow guests to bring their own bud.

Smokers at Rise must first navigate through the sprawling and swanky dispensary, which was designed by Sasha Adler, a Gold Coast-based firm that typically specializes in historical restorations and construction projects. The main lounge seats 46, while an adjacent “smokeasy” accommodates 17 for private events.

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The line to receive a placed order at RISE at 1325 Armour Blvd in Mundelein, Illinois, Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Reservations are required, and the experience is much like fine dining. Guests are seated by a host and given a run-down by a server, who walks through the menu, gets an impression of how much weed everyone uses and places the orders. Smoking paraphernalia is also provided.

“Then you go up to the bar, purchase it, come sit back down at your table and hit a bong or a gravity bong or a dab rig or whatever,” said Brendan Blume, GTI’s vice president of experiences.

“Jungle” Cae Jones, 27, of Logan Square, came with his two partners and smoked through more than five grams of flower in less than three hours.

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“Jungle” Cae Jones poses for a portrait at RISE at 1325 Armour Blvd in Mundelein, Illinois, Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

“We need spaces like this,” said Jones, a former budtender who now works as a cannabis educator and social media specialist. “It’s what people want.”

Jones, who is Black, said he got into the industry to empower other people of color, who have borne the brunt of cannabis enforcement but largely haven’t reaped the financial benefits of legalization.

“We’re in Mundelein,” he said. “That’s a long way from Logan Square and that’s an even longer way from where my grandma grew up on 82nd. Me being able to show people what it looks like for somebody like me to be inside here makes it possible. It makes people excited about it.”

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“Jungle” Cae Jones shows off what he is smoking at RISE at 1325 Armour Blvd in Mundelein, Illinois, Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Alex Ball, 23, of Wonder Lake, was smoking a massive gravity bong at another table with the help of her server, who’s also her co-worker. A budtender to medical patients at the shop, Ball said she locked down a spot a month ago anticipating “people were gonna be slamming the reservation button trying to come in on 4/20.”

As she extolled the medical benefits of marijuana, noting the drug has helped her cope with mental illness, she also praised its communal allure.

“I think cannabis really does bring people together,” she said.

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From left to right, Alex Ball, Tristan Chaney and Cassandra sit around after taking a hit from a gravity bong at RISE at 1325 Armour Blvd in Mundelein, Illinois, Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

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