SOUTH CHICAGO — During the coronavirus pandemic, Chicagoans are visiting their local dispensary less often, but buying weed in bulk, according to industry players.
Deemed essential businesses under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay at home order, pot shops have remained open, but in order to comply with social distancing guidelines, new safety and sales protocols have been put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus.
In March, state officials issued COVID-19 guidelines for dispensary operators including; allowing curbside sales for medical patients, enhanced cleaning inside the dispensary and restricting the number of customers inside at any given time.
In order to prevent crowding and to protect medical patients who may have underlying health conditions, dispensaries have asked recreational customers to reserve an appointment or pre-order online, while several have closed to recreational sales altogether.
Neal McQueeney, co-owner of Midway Dispensary, 5648 S. Archer Ave., said customers are as “conscious about best health practices as we are,” and the sales protocols are in place “for all of our safety and well being.” Midway is handling “5-6 (curbside sales) an hour most days,” but other dispensaries are constrained by the size of their parking lots, or offering the service only if a patient requests it.
Kris Krane, president of Mission dispensary in South Chicago, 8554 S. Commercial Ave., said customers are adapting to the new measures and are largely appreciative.
“It’s been an adjustment for everybody, for the customers as well as for the staff or management, and all of us figuring out what’s the right way to handle this in this environment,” he said.
4Front Ventures, the company that owns Mission and other dispensaries across the country, was having trouble maintaining enough hand sanitizer at their shops, so they began making their own at a production facility in Washington. Once enough is produced for their dispensaries, they will begin donating sanitizer to healthcare workers in the states they operate.
In Chicago, Mission requires customers to sign up for an hour appointment window before ordering over the phone, but has waived the purchase limits that were in effect in the first few months of recreational sales.
“From a public health perspective we want them coming as infrequently as possible, and so we lifted those purchase limits a few weeks ago. So we are seeing fewer people per day, but the sales numbers on the whole are higher,” he said.
Andy Seeger, a cannabis analyst at Brightfield Group, said despite the cratering economy and climbing unemployment rate, weed sales are generally holding steady in Illinois.
“It’s a little bit of a sticky good, kind of like beer, where it’s one of the last things you give up when you become unemployed and it’s one of the first things you pick back up when you become employed,” he said.
Possibly weary of smoking during a pandemic caused by a respiratory virus, both Krane and Seeger suggested there are early indications that people are shifting away from flower and vape cartridges and towards other forms of consuming weed, like edibles.
While recreational sales have remained steady, so have the high prices, a combination of limited supply and steep taxes. Prices were expected to steadily drop this year as cultivation facilities in the state expanded their footprint and ramped up production, but that’s a costly investment to make during uncertain economic conditions.
“It’ll probably keep prices higher for longer, just because it will likely delay the opening of new facilities,” Krane said, noting a recession will limit companies access to capital in an industry that relies on individual investors rather than traditional banks or loans.
The health crisis and related economic stress could also delay the opening of new dispensaries.
Cresco Labs and MOCA were both awarded state licenses last week to open Chicago’s first two pot shops solely dedicated for recreational customers in River North, but neither gave an exact date for when they will open. Cresco will open their Sunnyside dispensary at 436 N. Clark St., as a limited “pop up” store as they finish construction on the rest of the building.
Danny Marks, co-owner of MOCA, said they could open in a “few weeks” if not for coronavirus. The weed shop, at 216 W. Ohio St, is nearly ready, but they are now figuring out how to hire employees and “manage a big opening with minimal personal interactions,” he said.
The state is set to award licenses for 72 new dispensaries statewide on July 1 aimed at “social equity” applicants, but those licenses will be given out during a cratering economy.
“This next level where we were looking for more social justice, where we were looking for more small businesses to be incorporated, that’s now completely scrambled,” Seeger said, “I don’t know how people go through that application process with the funding environment, with the retail environment.”
Before heading to the dispensary, customers should check online to keep up to date on sales and safety protocols.
Here’s the latest on dispensaries in the city:
Three dispensaries in Chicago; MOCA, 2847 W. Fullerton Ave, in Logan Square, Dispensary 33, 5001 N. Clark St, in Andersonville and Green Gate, 7305 N. Rogers Ave, in Rogers Park, are serving medical patients only at this time.
Columbia Care, 4758 N. Milwaukee Ave: Medical patients are encouraged to order online or over the phone, 312-948-9082. Recreational customers must make an appointment before entering the dispensary. Hours: Closed Sunday, Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. for medical, Monday -Saturday 12 p.m.- 4:15 p.m. for recreational appointments.
Sunnyside Lakeview, 3812 N. Clark St: Medical patients and recreational customers 55+ with heightened health risks must order across the street at 3801 N. Clark St 10 a.m.- 9 p.m. All other recreational customers are required to order online 12 p.m.- 8 p.m. daily and will be given a time to pick up their order. Curbside pick-up is allowed to medical patients by request.
Mission South Shore, 8554 S. Commercial Ave, Online ordering is encouraged for medical patients. Recreational customers must reserve a one-hour appointment window via Eventbrite before ordering over the phone. Hours: Monday -Saturday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Midway Dispensary, 5648 S. Archer Ave: Curbside pickup available for medical patients who order online. Recreational sales by appointment only. Hours: Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.
The Herbal Care Center, 1301 S. Western Ave: Online ordering only available to medical patients, while recreational customers must schedule an appointment. Text “Join THCC” 773-207-6916 to receive updates. Hours Sunday – Monday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Tuesday – Saturday 10 a.m.- 8 p.m.
NuMed Chicago, 1308 W. North Ave: Medical patients are encouraged and recreational customers are required to order online. Online ordering begins at 11:30 a.m. for recreational weed with pickups beginning at 1 p.m. Hours: Closed Sunday-Monday, Tuesday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Consume Cannabis, 6428 N. Milwaukee Ave: Medical patients are encouraged to order online and take advantage of curbside pick-up in the parking lot, which is reserved for medical patients. Recreational customers are required to order online before heading to the dispensary. Hours: Closed Sunday, Monday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
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