Photo by Joe Boyle
A large crowd waits in line to enter Windy City Cannabis in Worth last Thursday morning to purchase marijuana. Cannabis can be legally purchased in Illinois for adults ages 21 as of Jan. 1.
By Joe Boyle
A crowd of people that stretched out to the back of the Windy City Cannabis facility in Worth waited patiently to make their purchase last Thursday morning.
As of Jan. 1, marijuana can be legally purchased in Illinois by adults ages 21 and over. And many of the people who waited outside of Windy City Cannabis, 11425 S. Harlem Ave., said they could not wait for this day.
One man in his 20s, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that he was not surprised at the long line outside Windy City, even last Thursday.
“A lot of people are off of work because of the holidays since Christmas and New Year’s were in the middle of the week,” he said. “I think you will see a lot of people right through the weekend. But I think after some time it will taper off. People will start getting used to this.”
After making his comments, he was approached by a member of the Windy City staff who escorted him and three other individuals inside to make that long-awaited purchase.
“It finally happened. I was very happy,” said Brandon, a Tinley Park resident who said he had no problem waiting for an hour in the line that stretched around the outside of the Windy City dispensary in Worth.
“I’ve been waiting for this (legalization) my whole life, probably 45 years,” said a woman who did not want to give her name. “I work at a school,” she explained, adding that she was looking for “something light, just to relax.”
Brandon, 28, a former Palos Hills resident, came from his home in Elmhurst to check out the product as well.
“This will be my first time. I have never smoked marijuana before. I was always worried about breaking the law.”
A Worth resident who did not want to give his name said he walked to the dispensary to check out what was for sale.
“I haven’t smoked marijuana in 20 years, but from my experience, alcohol is worse, and you have liquor stores all around.”
He said he was not worried about too much traffic in his neighborhood, although he lives just a block or two away.
One of the professional security guards keeping an eye on the crowds last Thursday said there had been no problems to deal with.
“Everything is fine. Everyone is happy,” she said.
On New Year’s Day, Illinois became the 11 th state to allow legal sales of recreational marijuana. This was made possible by passage of a new law during last summer’s legislative session. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act on June 25.
Windy City Cannabis in Worth mirrored sales at other Windy City locations in Justice, Homewood and Posen. All the facilities had long lines on New Year’s Day, according to Steve Weisman, CEO of the Windy City Cannabis dispensaries. Pam Althoff, executive director of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois (CBAI), said the overall response on Jan. 1 was gratifying.
“Things have gone extraordinarily well,” Althoff said. “The Illinois regulators are very pleased.”
CBAI, or CannaBIz Illinois, represents the state’s cultivation centers and dispensaries that have served thousands of medical cannabis patients for the past several years. They will now be growing and selling cannabis products for the general public.
Worth Mayor Mary Werner said the 3 percent sales tax, with 1.5 percent going to the village, could result in over $300,000 in revenue this year. Windy City Cannabis was provided the first opportunity to sell marijuana within the village limits of Worth.
The Worth Village Board passed the ordinance during a meeting held Nov. 5. Windy City Cannabis has operated a medicinal marijuana facility in Worth for the past two years.
Unlike other southwest suburban municipalities, Worth already had Windy City Cannabis providing medicinal marijuana for patients. Owners of a medicinal marijuana dispensary were allowed the first opportunity to decide if they want to sell recreational marijuana.
Werner was not available for comment this past weekend. However, she did post some comments on her Facebook page late Sunday night. The mayor said that it was her hope that new parking signs and security staff at Windy City Cannabis will prevent parking problems for nearby residents.
The security staff has been standing by the parking signs that feature big arrows pointing customers to the nearby Water’s Edge Golf Course, 7205 W. 115 th St., parking lot.
“If any of the Worth residents have guests who accidentally get a parking ticket, please let me know,” Werner wrote. “Our intention is to make your lives less stressful, not more.”
Althoff said that marijuana sales resulted in $3.2 million on New Year’s Day in Illinois. She also said that 77,128 transactions for various cannabis products also took place on Jan. 1. Seventy-five new licenses will be rewarded for dispensaries in May, according to CBAI.
Sales were not as high last Thursday at the dispensaries but were still impressive. Sales were just over $2.2 million on the second day of purchasing recreational marijuana. This came out to 56,762 transactions, according to the governor’s office.
Supplies have diminished at Windy City Cannabis in Worth and the three other locations. However, there were still customers waiting to make purchases outside the Worth dispensary on Monday morning. No recreational marijuana was available by Monday afternoon.
While sales were brisk last week at cannabis dispensaries, Althoff admitted that there were some snags the first two days whey they opened for business.
“We had some software problems,” Althoff said. “But those issues were minor. Unfortunately, there were periods of delays. However, some individuals who were hired did not receive clearance so some of the long waits were due to less employees. It was not that we did not anticipate this, but it was just part of the process.”
Althoff mentioned that several dispensaries were not yet in operation. Zoning regulations have not yet been approved for some of these facilities, Althoff said.
Besides cannabis, dispensaries like Windy City Cannabis offer a full range of products that includes flower concentrates, and infused items such as oils and edibles.
Some of those people waiting in line last Thursday at Windy City Cannabis in Worth mentioned that they were interested in the edibles. Another woman in her 20s said that she was aware that history was being made.
“Yeah that’s right. It’s historic, I guess,” she said.
Contributing to this report was Dermot Connolly.