GRAYSLAKE – Zach Camp leaned back in his chair at his CBD retail store and sighed.
“My nightmares are coming true,” he said. “Usually we’re pretty busy on Saturday. I think the dispensaries might have something to do with it. We might take a little hit here. Or it’s just every once in a while we get a lull where it’s slow for four or five days and then it just booms.”
On Jan. 1, a new law went into effect legalizing recreational marijuana distributed via licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, such as Rise Mundelein, making Illinois the 11th state to legalize the drug beyond medical purposes. Adults 21 and older are permitted to possess up to 30 grams – roughly an ounce – of weed, and no more than 5 milligrams of products containing cannabis concentrate and edibles totaling a maximum of 500 mg tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
People are allowed to smoke in their own homes or “on-site in some cannabis-related businesses,” according to IllinoisPolicy.org. Smoking marijuana is prohibited in the vicinity of anyone under 21 years old, on school grounds (medical marijuana users are exempted from this), in a motor vehicle, in any public area (including streets and parks) or near on-duty police or corrections officers, firefighters or bus drivers.
In the first day of legalization, sales cleared $3 million, and the first week of sales approached $11 million.
Camp’s store, CBD Grayslake, sells products containing cannabidiol, or CBD, from marijuana’s sister plant hemp. CBD oils, lotions, edibles and other products can provide similar effects as medical marijuana – potentially providing relief from pain, anxiety and insomnia, for example – but without the psychoactive elements, as it does not contain THC.
People using CBD products are still able to work, drive and perform other tasks because these products lack the THC component, he said. His clientele “want the help without the high.”
Camp’s biggest seller, he said, is his CBD water soluble – a water-based CBD product people can drop into a beverage and drink. Unlike CBD oil, Camp said, the water soluble is more absorbent for the human body and people are able to get a greater benefit from the water-based product.
Camp opened his shop in August 2018 after losing a close friend to opioids as a way to fight back against the opioid crisis. Since then, Camp has grown a steady clientele within his community and said it’s been “rewarding” to help people who are “broken down” and offer them some relief.
“Whether that’s the water soluble, whether it’s the placebo effect or just talking to somebody, that’s been our most rewarding thing,” he said.
The legalization of recreational marijuana may create some competition for his store, he said, but he thinks the big craze right now will slowly drop off.
“I think right now it’s a big fad,” he said. “Come whatever, middle of summer, it’ll slowly dissipate. It’s still gonna be busy, but there’s not gonna be lines.”
How will this new law affect shops such as Camp’s in the long run? Camp said, “I think it’s too early to say. Based on me talking to my customers, I think we’ll maintain 90% of them.”
The next day, Jan. 5, roughly 10 miles from Camp’s store in Grayslake, the front door of Rise Mundelein swung open and a handful of people hurried in, stomping out of the cold and into the marijuana dispensary. The line shuffled forward, those still waiting now that much closer to their destination. Many had been waiting about an hour. A voice from farther back in the line suddenly called out:
“I’m willing to trade places with someone up there [at the front of the line] for $100.”
Laughter bubbled in response. Despite the wait – and the cold – everyone was in good spirits while they waited to make their legal marijuana purchase, whether it be for medical purposes or recreation.
For Rise Mundelein, the new year – and the new law – kicked off with a bang. Rise Mundelein saw lines of customers several hours long beginning Jan. 1 and continuing through the first few days of the new year. By Sunday, the line had shortened to just an hour or two.
“This is a great opportunity for the state and the city of Mundelein and the surrounding areas to be able to serve patients,” said Bret Kravitz, an attorney with Rise. “This used to be the Clinic Mundelein and we’ve now rebranded as Rise Mundelein and it’s exciting to be able to serve the population of Illinois. It’s something I really think is overdue; we’ve been gearing up for this for a while now.”
Kravitz said he’d been at the Mundelein clinic since 8 a.m. that day, helping clients and answering any questions they had.
He said everyone had been upbeat despite the wait.
“It’s a great experience for me to be here talking to people. … No one’s been downbeat or upset about the lines at this point,” Kravitz said. “Our medicinal patients get to come to the front of the line and everyone else at this point is coming in in about an hour and everyone’s pretty upbeat about what’s going on and excited about getting inside.”
Once clients were inside, the wait wasn’t over, but they were able to submit their IDs and peruse the menu on an iPad, completing pre-orders so their purchase would be ready by the time they got to the counter. Ten cashiers assisted the seemingly never-ending flow of clients, with two registers for medical patients only to shorten their wait.
The dispensary has assisted 1,700 to 2,100 clients per day since Jan. 1, store manager Roger Dillman said.
“It’s incredibly exciting,” he said. “This is why we’re all here for people, to help people and to help 2,000 people every day has been amazing.”
Cannabis is more potent than hemp, Dillman said, because of the presence of THC, and it is therefore more effective for medicinal use.
“Even just the combination of CBD and THC is much more effective for things like pain relief and sleep than just CBD,” he said. “Your body reacts to it better when it’s both involved as opposed to just one.”
Because of this, Dillman said he believes people eventually will patron marijuana dispensaries versus CBD shops, adding, “I think there’s such a huge market for CBD out there right now, it’ll be a long time before we see that happen.”
Several dispensaries in the Chicago area have been forced to close temporarily because of product shortages. Rise Mundelein was closed Jan. 6, but it was to give employees a day to rest rather than because of a lack of inventory.
Emma Olsberg and Keith Murphy were near the end of the line and had been waiting roughly 20 minutes, but neither seemed to mind the wait as they inched closer to one of the space heaters distributed throughout the line.
“It’s actually moving pretty fast,” Murphy said.
“It’s not bad,” Olsberg said, adding they were there to “just celebrate getting some edibles. Just seeing what it’s about.”