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Illustration: Beth Hoeckel

What’s next for weed in Chicago?

From blazed yoga and dinner parties to public lounges, we gaze into our (hazy) crystal ball to predict the future of weed in Chicago

Zach Long
Emma Krupp
Written by
Zach Long
&
Emma Krupp
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It finally happened! In the wake of legalization, Chicagoans willing to wait in line can get a THC fix without texting a dealer, but dispensaries stocked with flower, wax and edibles are just the tip of the iceberg. In the coming years, changing legislation may allow new businesses and experiences built around the consumption of marijuana. Not sure what to expect? We consulted with industry experts and looked to cities like Los Angeles and Denver (where weed has been legal for years) to part the pungent clouds shrouding the future of marijuana in Chicago.

Yoga studios where you can namaste high 

Most people would argue that both weed and yoga help you to relax, so why not combine the two? You probably shouldn’t attempt a scorpion handstand while stoned, but a few tokes can encourage a slower practice of restorative yoga, according to Daryn Schwartz, founder of Chicago-based The Space Between studio. “One of the benefits of cannabis is that it helps me access parts of my mind and parts of my body that I don’t normally access,” suggests Schwartz. If Illinois regulations evolve, she envisions wellness centers in which participants could indulge in some bud before striking a pose, similar to the private, cannabis-assisted classes that are being offered in Colorado and California. In the meantime, there’s nothing stopping you from sparking up on your mat at home.

Public lounges that let you partake with friends

While puffing a joint in your living room or on your balcony may be kind of boring, it’s the only place where you can do it legally for now. But if you really, really want to get zonked in public, it may soon be permissible to blaze at restaurants and bars, just like the California lounges that offer food, non-alcoholic beverages and rentable water pipes. (That said, it’s worth noting that it’s pretty common to see Angelenos light up on bar patios.) “The more places a consumer can take marijuana and use it in a safe, comfortable, legal environment, the better,” says Patrick O’Hern, marketing director for Illinois cannabis cultivator Nature’s Grace and Wellness. City Hall is still hashing out where we can toke up in public, but the recent approval of a lounge attached to a Springfield dispensary may provide a glimpse of what could happen in Chicago. Until then, try not to accidentally set your couch on fire.

Buses that take you on a tour de chronic

The cannabis tourism biz flourishes in states with established weed laws, offering everything from growing-facility walk-throughs to bus tours that deliver riders to a smoke sesh with Tommy Chong (seriously). But here in Chicago—where consumption lounges are not yet sanctioned and dwindling dispensary supplies make for long waits—tour companies are getting creative. Due to a legal loophole, the newly launched Loopr can bus its customers to a private residence where regular folks can smoke in peace in a lounge that’s stocked with paraphernalia. Loopr president Bryan Spatz predicts revised laws and a steadier supply of in-state cannabis will shorten wait times at dispensary stops and expand tour options. Don’t hold your breath for the chance to smoke while riding the bus, though: Spatz notes that onboard use, which is legal in Colorado but recently banned in California, likely won’t happen in Illinois anytime soon. What a buzz kill.

Boutiques that sell haute bud (and accessories)

There’s been much ado about the “upscale” reefer market: Companies such as the celeb-endorsed Beboe, which The New York Times dubbed “the Hermès of marijuana,” peddle stylish vaporizers and microdosed pastilles at California and Colorado dispensaries, with locations peppered throughout the monied streets of Beverly Hills and Orange County. “In other markets, we’ve seen product choice shifting from traditional offerings—like flower—to luxury, ‘socially dosed’ products,” says Jennifer Dooley, chief strategy officer of the Chicago-headquartered cultivator Green Thumb Industries, which acquired Beboe in 2019. As the Chicago cannabis market matures, you can expect similarly posh offerings, including edibles that offer a mild high that’s suitable for casual daytime settings.

High-end dinner parties

You can get high off of pot brownies, sure, but what about a full meal? Companies offering marijuana-infused dinner parties—a practice long relegated to pre-legalization secrecy and word-of-mouth invitations—have already arrived in Chicago hoping to help you elevate your edibles game. Here’s how it works: Guests dine on elegant, multi-course meals with THC add-ons specially calibrated by a chef (like infused honey and sauces made for drizzling), allowing diners to build up a tasty buzz throughout the evening. Weed and food make for a naturally camaraderie-building combination according to Stacie Thompson and Akeea Barker, who run a Chicago-based marijuana supper club A Table for Twenty, which hosts community events and private gatherings. Thompson notes that the drug’s decriminalization means that previously underground operations now have “a chance to shine,” so count on these stoner-friendly menus sticking around.

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