Just like going to the Apple or Sephora store.
That’s how Jason Erkes, spokesperson for marijuana company Cresco Labs, describes what it will be like for Illinois consumers to go to a cannabis shop to buy recreational weed.
Up to 110 pot businesses could open their doors when legal recreational weed sweeps across the state starting Jan. 1 and weed-wise customer service reps will be ready to assist newly minted buyers.
So when we asked for your questions about legal weed, some WBEZ readers wanted to know: What can I expect walking into a weed shop?
To help answer that question, we visited MedMar Dispensary in Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood, which is preparing to open its doors to recreational pot customers at 6 a.m. on the first of the year.
Erkes, along with the shop’s general manager Gabe Vale, gave WBEZ a tour through the dispensary’s showroom, which is accented with dark green paint, decorated with photos of weed plants and stocked with bud. In Illinois, that bud is required to stay locked away in a backroom — the product packages that fill the shop’s glass display shelves are empty.
Here’s what Illinois consumers should consider when picking a product for the first time.
What type of high are you looking for?
The type of high you get depends on what strain of weed you use.
The three most common categories are indicas, sativas and hybrids. Indica is a strain of weed that’s meant to help you relax or sleep. Sativa is a strain of weed that’s supposed to give you energy. And there are hybrid strains that are a combination of both strains.
Most forms of weed (joints, edibles, concentrates) come in all three strains.
How do you want to get high?
By smoking: Try the traditional flower
Flower can come alone in its own container or pre-rolled as a joint when purchased at a dispensary.
You can purchase up to 30 grams as an Illinois resident, or 15 grams as an out-of-towner. That’s about an ounce of weed — enough for around 60 joints depending on how much you pack in each one.
The high from smoking flower kicks in the fastest, within minutes of smoking, and can last for a few hours.
Or try a vape pen
You can also smoke marijuana oil that’s vaporized through an electronic device. Vape pens tend to be stronger than traditional flower. The method is currently under scrutiny because of a rash of vaping-related illnesses that have swept across the country, though officials say many illnesses are linked to products bought on the black market.
By eating: Get an edible
The brownie is probably the edible most commonly referred to in pop culture, but there are all types of products on shelves these days, including gummies, tonic drinks, hot chocolate, lemonade and ice creams.
Edibles tend to be stronger than flower, take longer to kick in, and can last longer depending on the person. The amount of THC (the active ingredient that gets you high) is measured in milligrams. A standard dose for a beginner is 10 mg, according to Vale, with people working their way up to 100 mg — the highest dose the state allows in an edible.
Also try: Tinctures and sprays
Dropping oil underneath your tongue tastes “oily” and not much like marijuana, according to Vale. These are made from extracting oil from the marijuana plant, creating highly concentrated THC good for microdosing to relieve pain. It’s recommended to take a drop the size of a grain of rice at a time because of how highly concentrated the oil is.
Through a lotion: Try a topical
Marijuana-infused lotions and oils can be rubbed on the skin and are believed to relieve pain. Topical creams and oils contain THC but won’t get you high.
How high do you want to get?
The answer to this question lies in the concentration of CBD and THC in the product you choose. THC is the ingredient that gets you high and CBD is the ingredient that’s believed to relax your mind, Vale said. So the higher the concentration of THC, the higher you’re likely to get.
You’ll also pay more for highly THC-concentrated products, because the state taxes weed at different levels depending on how strong it is.
Here’s what the purchasing process looks like
All purchases are cash only, though many dispensaries have ATMs and some have created their own credit cards.
You’ll need to present your I.D. when you walk into the store in order to prove that you’re 21 or older, and then potentially again when you’re purchasing. Illinois lawmakers say this information won’t be stored.
And it’ll be expensive at first: a gram of weed (about enough for a joint or two) currently runs for $20 on the medical market — and $15 on the black market. That’ll automatically be anywhere from $24 to $27 per recreational gram because of steep taxes. Illinois residents could also see a spike in prices due to high demand and anticipated supply shortages as the industry gets off the ground.
Mariah Woelfel is a reporter at WBEZ. You can follow her on Twitter at @MariahWoelfel.