Consume Cannabis’. new recreational-use dispensary in Oakbrook Terrace. (Provided)

Marijuana is mainstream in suburban Chicago 

Six municipalities in the metropolitan Chicago area, including Wilmette, Elk Grove Village, Batavia, Park Ridge, Mount Prospect and Glen Ellyn, all approved adult use marijuana sales via voter referendums last week.

The only buzzkill for cannabis industry supporters was Western Springs, where 60 percent of voters said they did not want recreational dispensaries in their backyards.

All of these towns passed on allowing recreational sales at the onset of Illinois state legalization that began nearly one year ago, preferring a wait and see approach.

Fast forward to today: The sky has not fallen. 

Cannabis is an ascending multibillion dollar industry in the Midwest. Tax revenue is exceeding expectations for towns that first embraced recreational expansion. Marijuana retailers were designated as essential businesses during the onset of Covid 19. Plant-touching as well as ancillary cannabis companies selling software, professional services and agriculture equipment are hiring. 

Further fostering a green wave of cannabis expansion in the suburbs is the fact that dispensaries unable to pass through onerous Chicago zoning restrictions are essentially forced to seek greener pastures in outlying areas. 

While it will take at least a few months for businesses that own recreational dispensary licenses to find locations and stand up retail operations in newly legal towns, the latest pot shop to open to a suburban clientele is considerably more glossy than glazed.   

Land of Golden Arches turns green 

Consume Cannabis on November 5th opened a high tech flagship location in Oakbrook Terrace, just a stone’s throw away from the glitzy Oakbrook Center shopping mall and McDonald’s former corporate headquarters. Some number of edibles, tinctures and stinky pre-rolls were served. 

The department store-like experience includes a touchscreen information portal with details about various strains and their potential effects, as well as a customer cafe that is offering socially distant classes on topics ranging from cooking to concentrates. There is even a machine that pumps out Sephora-like fragrance cards for customers who want a literal sense of the aromatic terpenes that exist in the plants they smoke or otherwise ingest. 

Private investors own Consume Cannabis dispensaries, which “has a strong working relationship” with cultivator Progressive Treatment Solutions based in East St. Louis, IL. On hand for the opening was David Flood, formerly a principal officer a the Medical Cannabis Association of Illinois and government relations representative for Progressive Treatment Solutions. There are three additional Consume locations in Illinois: Chicago, Carbondale, and Marion, as well as Michigan dispensaries in Alma, Harrisville, and Quincy. 

Catering to newbies and longtime plant enthusiasts 

While this reporter’s beat focuses on economic expansion associated with cannabis commercialization and normalization throughout the Midwest, my visit to the Oakbrook Terrace grand opening was also an opportunity to pick up some cannabis to consume. 

In May, my colleague Mike Fourcher journaled his experience trying pot for the first time. Due to supply shortages, Mike’s journey to purchase low dose Mindy’s Edibles gummies included spending days trying to pre-order the product from multiple dispensaries on Chicago’s North Side. 

Nearly six months later, I can report vast and varied availability of flower, edibles, potions and other form factors at Consume and other dispensaries on my reporting beat. I didn’t have to wait long to make an order. 

As for that order? Let’s just say I’m a bit old school when it comes to the plant. I asked for a strong joint. Along came the 1 gram PTS MacNanna Pre-Roll, which costs $21, but with taxes for recreational-use, it came in at close to $30. The concentration splits appeared promising, with a potency analysis of 63 percent and a THC total of 31.45 percent. I took the liberty of sampling a few puffs during election week. Strong stuff, but I’m still walking. 

At the encouragement of Consume Cannabis’ Vice President of retail operations Jake Coward, I also took home a 12 ounce can of PTS Tonic Fizz’ Grapefruit 1:1. Within this White Claw-like concoction are 25 mg of THC and 25 mg of CBD. I may save that one for a special occasion like a Bears playoff game or Friday night Trey Anastasio streamed performance from New York’s Beacon Theater. We shall see if infused beverages become my new cup of tea.

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Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.