New Marijuana Dispensary Opening On Weed Street, But Other Dispensary Licenses Are Stuck On Indefinite Pause

CHICAGO (CBS) — The second recreational-only marijuana dispensary in Chicago opens Wednesday, on – believe it or not – Weed Street.

But as CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported, the opening comes after more licensing delays from the state for other planned dispensaries, with Gov. JB Pritzker signing an executive order delaying 80 licenses indefinitely due to COVID-19.

“I think it was meant to be,” said Wren Berger, the director of operations for Windy City Cannabis. “Weed on Weed.”

Meant to be or not, opening a business during a pandemic isn’t easy. If that business is a recreational pot dispensary, it’s even harder.

“It’s hard to put all those pieces together in a timely manner,” Berger said. “I’m just so excited we were able to do that.”

The new dispensary is going into a onetime industrial building at 923 W. Weed St. – an area just west of Clybourn and Halsted streets and east of Goose Island that was also once known as a nightclub district.

In relatively recent years, the building was home to a location of the New York-based Dinosaur Bar-B-Que restaurant, and before that, the nightclubs Zentra and Mask.

Berger said Windy City Cannabis is ready.

“It’s definitely been a very long time coming,” he said.

And there are safety plans and extra precautions in place. There may not be a nightclub called Mask in the building anymore, but the name still has some relevance in a different way.

“Of course, to enter the facility, you must wear a mask,” Berger said.

The dispensary is opening Wednesday without delay.

“There’s lot more processes and procedures that we had to consider in order to maintain the health and safety of our customers and our staff,” Berger said.

And while procedures in the dispensary may look different on Wednesday, the numbers don’t. Recreational marijuana sales hit a record high during the COVID-19 crisis, topping $44 million in May.

But we found the pandemic is slowing other parts of the industry down.

Through an executive order, Gov. Pritzker has delayed licenses to grow, transport and infuse cannabis products – licenses that were supposed to be announced this Wednesday, but are now on an indefinite pause.

That leaves those who applied for those licenses wondering if and when they’ll get a go-ahead from the state.

Those licenses, for businesses in their first chance to participate in an industry they were not already involved in, were prioritized for social equity applicants.

The state responded to Molina’s request for more information on the delay of licenses with news releases from the Governor’s office and The Illinois Department of Agriculture.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture will announce the new date for issuing licenses, but they have not announced that yet.

“The Pritzker Administration is committed to creating a fair and equitable adult-use cannabis industry in Illinois. IDOA is helping achieve that goal by providing Illinois residents, specifically those who live in communities that were disproportionately impacted by the failed war on drugs, with multiple entry-points to this new industry,” Jerry Costello II, Acting Department of Agriculture Director, said in that department’s release. “The COVID-19 pandemic and the 6-week deadline extension granted to applicants have caused unforeseeable delays in the application review process. The Department is working tirelessly to ensure that applications are scored and awarded in a fair, deliberate and equitable manner.”

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The pending licenses are 40 craft grower licenses, 40 infuser licenses, and an unlimited number of transport licenses.

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