- The Washington Times - Friday, May 29, 2020

A marijuana dispensary in downtown Chicago opened its doors Thursday to become the first pot shop in the city to exclusively sell recreational weed in accordance with Illinois law.

Located blocks from the famed Magnificent Mile shopping district, Sunnyside River North officially holds the distinction of being the sole dispensary in Chicago authorized to sell only adult-use, or recreational, marijuana, as opposed to selling medical marijuana as well.

Illinois legalized the medicinal use of marijuana in 2013, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, legalized recreational pot last year and paved the way for retail sales to start Jan. 1.

State officials have accordingly licensed a dozen marijuana dispensaries located within Chicago to conduct recreational sales, including Sunnyside, but the 11 others were already operating as authorized medical marijuana dispensaries and continue to cater to both medical and now recreational marijuana customers.

Cresco Labs, Sunnyside’s parent company, won the rights to open the dispensary in a November lottery and was issued the recreational license on April 3. The shop is located next to a Starbucks, west of the Magnificent Mile and a few blocks north of City Hall.

Notwithstanding the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, the shop opened this week in downtown Chicago with temporary measures in place meant to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the contagious disease the virus causes. Sunnyside is currently only accepting orders placed online in advance, and customers must check-in at a nearby “Guest Experience Center” before being allowed to enter the actual dispensary and receive their order.

“We were met with open arms in the River North neighborhood on opening day with a consistent, but socially distant, crowd of about 300 customers from the time we opened until the time we closed,” Jason Erkes, Cresco’s chief communications officer, told The Washington Times. “All in all, it was a great opening day of the first cannabis store in downtown Chicago.”

Thirty-three states have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, including Illinois and eight others where it can be bought from licensed retailers. Marijuana still remains illegal under federal law.

State officials previously said more than $147 million worth of recreational marijuana was sold at licensed Illinois dispensaries during the first four months of the year. More than 50 dispensaries within the state are currently licensed to conduct adult-use sales.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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