Pot shops gear up for Lollapalooza sales, with 'cannabus' shuttles and temporary smoking lounge

As Lollapalooza comes to Grant Park for four days of music and communal partying, Chicago’s cannabis dispensaries are gearing up for what they hope will be another extended weekend of big sales.

From open-air tents to process customers to express menus featuring festival favorites, several nearby dispensaries are gearing up for an expected influx of festival-goers looking for a legal buzz.

Verilife, a Chicago-owned cannabis dispensary, goes a step further by providing shuttle buses between Grant Park and its River North store. The “cannabus” fleet will operate two buses with up to 25 customers each going back and forth every 20 minutes during the festival. Last year, Verilife had a shuttle bus running for Lollapalooza.

“Lollapalooza last year really put this store on the map,” said Melissa Buckley, a spokeswoman for Verilife. “That’s why we’re beefing it up this year, to enable even more customers to shop with us.”

Launched in 1991, Lollapalooza took root in Chicago in 2005, becoming a major tourist draw for the city, drawing hundreds of thousands of festival-goers and pumping millions into the local economy. Lollapalooza was canceled in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it returned last summer with a new twist: cannabis was legal for the first time in the festival’s 30-year history.

Legalized in January 2020, recreational weed sales in Illinois reached a record $128 million in July 2021, helped by a end of the month boost from Lollapalooza. Nearby dispensaries in the River North and West Loop experienced significant increases in traffic during the festival and are bracing for an even bigger increase this summer.

“Our business practically doubled from last year this week,” Buckley said. “We expect the same this year.”

Jason Erkes, a spokesman for Chicago-based Cresco Labs, whose Sunnyside dispensary in River North is the closest to the Grant Park festivities, said last year’s festival was its biggest-selling weekend to date. This year, Erkes expects more than 7,000 customers to visit the store on North Clark Street during Lollapalooza.

Traffic began to pick up Wednesday night, with a line of customers at the store when it opened Thursday morning, Erkes said.

“You have all the people who are in town who don’t have legal cannabis where they come from and who want to experience it with the festival,” Erkes said. “And then you have all your regular customers who are stocking up for the weekend.”

To accommodate the rush, Sunnyside has set up several orange tents in front of the dispensary to process orders. It’s also launched an express menu featuring festival favorites like groceries and vaping products, which Erkes says are “very portable” for outdoor venues.

However, Sunnyside does not provide transportation to the festival. Most clients opt for the 1-mile walk or take a shared ride, Erkes said.

Verilife is owned by PharmaCann, a Chicago-based private cannabis company that launched in 2014 and has a presence in eight states, including eight dispensaries in Illinois. Last year Verilife named Ryne SandbergBaseball Hall of Famer and former Cubs great, as his spokesman.

The River North dispensary on West Superior Street, which opened in 2020, is the closest Verilife location to the festival.

In addition to the two shuttle buses, Verilife has obtained a decommissioned Greyhound bus, which has been converted into a mobile smoking room for patrons to light up before heading back to Lollapalooza. The smoking bus will be parked outside the dispensary throughout the festival.

“I think it’s going to give people the opportunity to shop even more than they did last year, because now they’re going to have a chance to sit down for 30 minutes, smoke a pre-roll in a compliant area and get high before they head into the show,” Buckley said. .

Smoking is not permitted on Verilife shuttle buses or at the festival itself. All Chicago parks ban smoking of any kind, including vaping, according to the Lollapalooza website.

While marijuana has been an integral part of outdoor music festivals since Woodstock in 1969, legalization has made it increasingly mainstream and big business. Recreational marijuana is legal in 19 states and Washington, DC

The cannabis research firm Headset projects that legal marijuana sales in the US will exceed $30 billion this year and reach $45.8 billion by 2025. In Illinois, sales have been on the rise since the state legalized marijuana. recreational marijuana in January 2020. The state legalized medical marijuana sales in 2015.

Last year, the state’s 110 dispensaries sold nearly $1.78 billion worth of cannabis products, including $1.38 billion worth of recreational weed and more than $397 million worth of medical marijuana. The state is on track to surpass that total this year, with $931 million in cannabis sales through June, including $751 million in recreational sales and $180 million in medical marijuana sales.

Illinois is projected to generate $2.55 billion in annual cannabis sales by 2025, according to Headset.


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