Navigating Chicago’s Dispensary Landscape

cannabis store

Consumers devour all sorts of content when making a big purchase, from social media reviews to buyer’s guides. However, the best resources are tailored to specific struggles or pain points.

As Illinois’s first recreational cannabis dispensaries open, employees of one are fighting to unionize. The publicly traded Green Thumb Industries owner operates several cannabis outlets and grows in 12 states.

Where to Buy

If you’ve never visited a cannabis shop, you may be surprised to learn that they look nothing like the back alley deals or dingy, incense-filled apartments once occupied by the stony neighborhood weed men who used to run them. Instead, weed shops are now consumer-friendly retail environments that resemble Apple Stores or smoothie shops.

Recreational weed can only be consumed at home or select cannabis-related licensed outlets; smoking in public is illegal. In addition, Illinois law requires dispensaries to scan a customer’s ID before they can enter the premises.

Tucked away in residential, family-friendly Norwood Park are the best dispensaries in Chicago is the perfect place to nerd out on flower strains’ cannabinoid and terpene profiles or cop potent extracts in syringe form. 

What to Expect

If you’re new to the cannabis scene, walking into your first dispensary can be daunting. But with a little preparation, you’ll be able to find the right products for your personal needs.

For example, a soothing, mellow indica may be more beneficial than a mood-boosting high if you’re stressed.


While we often associate buying cannabis with back-alley deals and dingy, incense-filled apartments that house stony neighborhood weed men, the slew of new recreational pot shops across Illinois are more corporatized retail environments resembling Apple stores, smoothie shops or wellness centers. Some are even committed to making social equity a core business strategy.

Due to state laws, it’s cash-only at dispensaries, although some have ATMs onsite, and others have invested in apps that allow customers to pay with debit cards (but be sure to factor in taxes). A “budtender” then leads you to the sales floor, where a binder displays jars of pre-rolled joints, vaporizer cartridges, edibles and more with names like Wedding Cake, Moonstone Kush, Cherry Bomb and Happy Pineapple.


You can buy cannabis in Chicago if you’re 21 or older and have a valid government-issued ID. However, you should be aware of legal issues when shopping for cannabis.

For example, you can’t consume marijuana in a moving vehicle. Even if you’re the only one in the car, it can still be considered a DUI offense.

You also should only purchase from a legally operating dispensary. Many shops will display state logos and paperwork that you can scan or look up in a database to verify their bona fides. Also, issuing a credit card or bank account at a dispensary is illegal because federally regulated banks are forbidden from dealing with funds derived from a Schedule I substance. Instead, you’ll need to bring cash.


A key factor to consider when shopping for cannabis is taxes. Unlike other businesses, retail and dispensary companies are taxed more because they sell controlled substances. They’re also not allowed to take many deductions because the IRS defines their business as selling or trafficking controlled substances violating federal law under section 280E.

It’s part of a state effort to lift communities that anti-cannabis laws have disproportionately punished.

But the mayor’s plan to exclude downtown’s central business district could send pot-seeking tourists elsewhere.