The line for pickup Friday evening at Mission Dispensary in South Shore took about thirty minutes to work through. (Source: Mike Fourcher) Credit: Mike Fourcher / Grown In

I should tell you something: Until this weekend, I had not tried pot. Yes, yes, I am a reporter for and founder of a cannabis-industry newsletter. Stop clutching your pearls. For me, the business aspects and unique positioning of the industry holds the appeal. And even though I’m a mid-40’s guy who graduated from one of the most THC-heavy colleges in the United States, Clark University, I just never got around to trying the bud.

Memorial Day weekend was as good a time as any to try out cannabis. Good weather, a lazy schedule, and since we’re in the pandemic, I wouldn’t have to shuttle between little league and other kid-centric events over the weekend. I could choose a good time to try it out at home, and just enjoy the experience.

So, that resolved the when and where, but the what to try and how to get it still needed to be worked out.

Edibles seemed to be the best choice for someone sharing a house with kids, and I’d heard fuss about Mindy’s Edibles, so I thought to start with that.

“For your first time? You should go with two-point five milligrams,” said my business partner Brad, a long time “pot-enthusiast”. “Take one, wait forty-five minutes for it to kick in, then take another two-point five thirty minutes later.” He was all grins, excited that I was finally breaking the seal. 

“Why are you doing this now? I mean, after all this time, why now?” he asked.

I mean, why not? I need to find out why so many people enjoy it. And my own hypocrisy of covering the industry but not partaking in the product was starting to wear on me.

I started work on getting some edibles on Tuesday. I’d heard that dispensaries near where I live in Lincoln Square, on Chicago’s Northwest Side were swamped, so I started by checking out NuMed, a bit south of me, near the Lincoln Park neighborhood. During the state-mandated quarantine, Illinois dispensaries are operating pre-order only, so at around 10:00 a.m. Tuesday I surfed over to the NuMed site, registered, and pre-ordered a 25-pack of Ieso’s sour cherry gummies. Not the Mindy’s stuff, but good enough, I figured. I checked out, picked a 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. pickup time and was notified that I would receive a text message when my order was ready for pickup.

The time came and went, and I didn’t get a text. I waited, thinking that maybe the store was overloaded and if I was patient, I would eventually get a notice. The day ended, I didn’t hear from NuMed, and got distracted from ordering edibles for a few days.

By Friday morning I knew I needed to order something soon, since the Memorial Day weekend would surely bring a rush. By noon, I’d been able to get through my morning work crush, and surf the web hard for a place to buy some edibles. My first try had let me down, so I decided to try another dispensary.

First stop, Dispensary 33, not far from me in Edgewater. Here they are using Eventbrite as a ticketing system for preordering. You reserve a ticket free of charge for a pickup time, then they call you to ask for your order, and then direct you to pick up at the prescribed hour. 

No dice here. Every pickup time for Friday and Saturday was taken.

Next up, Sunnyside in Lakeview. Before I could pre-order, the dispensary website directed me to register. I did that, then looked around for some edibles. Found a 20-pack of Mindy’s Lush Black Cherry 5mg edibles and put it in my online cart. Went to check out and got a message, “The online ordering window is currently closed, but you can still add items to your cart. Please check back soon. Click here for details.”

I clicked, and got details that endlessly confused me. Scrolling down, I learned that I couldn’t pick up an order until I got a call confirming it was ready. And a diagram telling me to check a “Live Menu”, but that link just brought me back to where I had started at the beginning. I tried the process a few times, but kept doing the same loop. Frustrated, I decided to go somewhere else.

I’d heard plenty of stories about swamped North Side dispensaries, so this time I decided to try out a spot on the South Side, Mission Dispensary at 86th and Commercial Ave in South Shore. Surfed over to the website; chose the Chicago South Shore location. The front page clearly directed me to a link to “reserve your pick-up window”. 

Like Dispensary 33, Mission was using Eventbrite to manage pickup times. The earliest time available was that evening from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. I picked a time, and was given directions: A Mission team member would call me, one hour before my pickup time. They would only allow eight in the store at a time, and I would have to wait until someone left the store before I would be allowed in. I entered my name, phone and email, then headed back to the menu. I found some White Grapefruit Mindy’s Edibles I liked, and waited for my call.

[Ed. Note: Mission Dispensary notified customers Sunday they are moving to a new order system, starting Tuesday, the 26th.]

Just after 4:00 p.m. I got my call from Mission Dispensary. A young woman asked me for my order, I told her about the Mindy’s Edibles, she then upsold me two more packets of Ieso edibles on sale. My order came to $40.42. It would be ready at 6:00 p.m. Nobody would be allowed into the store without a mask, she warned.

On a perfect spring evening, I got to the store just before 6:00 p.m., parked across the street, put on my mask, and joined a socially distanced line that stretched the length of the store and through the parking lot. Maybe twenty people patiently waited. A masked dispensary employee worked down the line, comparing names with a checklist of registered pickups. It took me thirty minutes to get to the front, a pleasant wait on a clear, 65-degree day, but maybe not so great on a rainy one.

At the door, another masked dispensary worker – everyone was masked here – held me up until another customer left the store. Eventually I was called into an atrium inside. Behind bullet-proof glass, a speaker, and a drawer, another worker asked for my identification and for me to remove my mask to compare against the pre-order list. Once affirmed my identity, I got my ID back, put my mask on, and was buzzed into the store. 

Here, there were two lines, one for medical users and another for recreational. There were no medical users waiting, but the recreational use was eight people long. There were four points of sale. In a relatively spartan, but tastefully decorated store, the walls were decorated with a historical timeline of cannabis’ illegality and legalization. 

After another five-minute wait, I was called to a clerk at the register. Stationed situated a sneeze guard, clerks were masked and wore disposable exam gloves. I gave the clerk my identification, which he checked against a list of pre-orders, then went to a back room and brought back my order. He showed me my three packets of edibles, asked me if I had any questions and then stated my total. I handed over my cash, got the change and put a tip in a tipbox by the register.

I left the store, headed to my car, and immediately drove to Lem’s Bar-B-Q on 75th Street. Because how could I be so close to Lem’s without getting Chicago’s best ribs? The edibles would wait until tomorrow.

Saturday morning was chores. Saturday afternoon was sunny and mild. I grabbed a magazine and took a 2mg White Grapefruit Mindy’s edible, headed to my backyard, sat in a chair, read my magazine and waited. 

About an hour later, aware of my experiment, my wife said, “You seem a lot mellower.”

This was a big statement for me. I’ve lived my whole life with an ADHD diagnosis, and while I hide it well, those close to me complain of my constant movement and super-intensity.

“Your body language, it’s different. You’re not really moving,” she said.

Thinking about it, I realized the edibles had not slowed me down, but they definitely seemed to sand down the edges a bit. I felt calmer, and lacked the usual edge of “amped-ness” I almost always feel. I still enjoyed and retained the magazine – the latest Business Week – but felt unusually calm.

I enjoyed the relaxation and sunny skies for a couple hours, had a sandwich for lunch, and then sat down to write this.

And now, I’ve tried pot. I’m interested to see what else there is to learn.

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Editor Mike is an itinerate reporter, recovering political consultant, and strategy game devotee.