Long Lines For Legal Marijuana Wrap Around Chicago Dispensaries

Written by Dana Sanchez
Chicagoans braved freezing weather and long lines for the historic opening of recreational marijuana sales and an end to prohibition in a city torn apart by it. Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton purchases recreational marijuana at Sunnyside dispensary Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photos by Paul Beaty)

Customers in Chicago braved freezing temperatures in the early hours of New Year’s Day to stand in long lines for the opening of recreational marijuana sales, bringing an end to prohibition in a city with a long history of being torn apart by it.

On New Year’s Eve, Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker pardoned more than 11,000 low-level marijuana convictions. Those misdemeanor convictions have been “a stain on their records for possessing less than 30 grams of cannabis,” Pritzker said.

Illinois is the first state where the law was adopted by the legislature rather than by voter initiatives.

Illinois already allowed medical marijuana and is now the 11th state to allow its use and sale for recreational purposes. Nearly three dozen Illinois dispensaries are licensed to sell recreational marijuana.

The new law allows people age 21 or older to buy 30 grams of marijuana in flower form, five grams in a different form such as muscle cream and 500 milligrams of edibles, like brownies.

Dispensaries quickly ran into shortages of marijuana flower, similar to what happened in other states that legalized recreational weed.

Once inside the dispensaries, shoppers didn’t hold back.

“It’s a lot of people and they are buying at an intense rate,” said Paul Lee, operations manager at Dispensary 33 where about 500 people lined up early Wednesday to shop. “To go into a couple hundred dollars is easy, and I have seen a few thousand dollar tickets,” Lee told ABC7.

Renzo Mejia — a medical marijuana patient who has worked for two Illinois pot companies — made the first legal purchase of recreational marijuana in Illinois history at Dispensary 33, buying an eighth of an ounce of Motorbreath OG for $80.

“To be able to have (recreational marijuana) here is just mind-boggling,” Mejia told Chicago Sun Times. “… To be able to now make the first purchase in Chicago, it’s just surreal.”

For decades, getting caught with a small amount of marijuana could put Illinois residents in jail for six months or more and leave them with criminal records that would follow them for the rest of their lives. Legalizing recreational cannabis includes a provision for nearly 800,000 people to clear their records, Fox59 reported.

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Legalized cannabis means the inclusion of communities left behind for far too long, said Toi Hutchinson, senior advisor to the governor for Cannabis Control. It “creates good jobs and expunges thousands of records for those who have lost out on opportunities and ends prohibition,” Hutchinson said.

On social media, people commented on the demeanor of dispensary customers. “Black Friday shoppers trample each other. These folks just hug & wait patiently ~ chill,” Timothy Garcia tweeted.

Other thoughts turned to politics. “Okay Florida Floridians let’s put this on the ballot this year legalized marijuana,” one tweeted. “Hope they have the same energy to stand in line for voting,” another person posted.