Posh pot boutiques? 'Budtenders'? Illinois police worry what's down the road
By Marni Pyke
Walking into the Hunny Pot in Toronto's hip Queen Street West neighborhood resembles walking into an art gallery rather than a marijuana dispensary.
Instead of pot-laced brownies or gummy bears on display, there's a swanky grown-up vibe in the airy, light-filled store. Smoking paraphernalia such as pastel-colored glass pipes and decorative bongs beckon behind pristine glass cases. Dried marijuana flowers with names such as "Tangerine Dream" and "Banana Split" sit on pedestals where visitors can take a whiff.
Whether the suburbs will boast posh pot boutiques when Illinois legalizes recreational marijuana on Jan. 1, 2020, is unclear, but local police chiefs are certain of at least two things: Crashes will increase and departments are sorely lacking a breath-test device to detect pot.
"There's definitely not enough resources," Des Plaines Police Chief William Kushner said. "We'll do the best we can for public safety and hope for the best."
Illinois State Police Crime Labs researchers are now testing THC (the active ingredient in cannabis) levels in blood, said Emily Bittner, spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
A task force on impaired driving and marijuana is analyzing "other state's best practices on enforcement, including examining emerging technology like roadside testing, which will be shared with local law enforcement to ensure officers are prepared on Day One," Bittner said.
So far in Toronto, Canada's largest city, there's only been a slight uptick in major traffic crashes since legalization occurred in October 2018. In 2017, the city experienced 63 fatal or serious injury crashes, compared to 66 in 2018.
But that number does not show the whole picture, officials said. The province of Ontario did not allow retail sales of marijuana until April 1 this year, although it was available online in October.
"It is very early to show trends," Toronto police traffic Sgt. Brett Moore said. Police are using standard field tests and specially trained drug recognition officers to detect impairment. Oral screening tests that use saliva, for example, are "very new and not widely used," Moore said.
In states like Colorado where marijuana was legalized in 2014, "the rate of drivers in serious and fatal crashes that had cannabis in their blood increased substantially," said Lemont Police Chief Marc Maton, who heads up the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police's legislative committee.
Bittner said 8% of tax revenue from recreational pot sales will be transferred to a fund to help local police train, prevent and detect marijuana-related crime and crashes.
Since Toronto's Hunny Pot opened in April, pot consumers have beat a steady path to the door, company Communications Officer Cameron Brown said. The average purchase costs about $65 and the number of customers ranges from 1,500 to 2,000 a day.
With 56 strains of cannabis, the experience can be daunting for novices, so numerous "budtenders" or pot sommeliers hover around the shop to advise customers.
Shopper Rhys Paxton called his shopping "a good experience. ... It's a lot better than buying it in a dark alley."
"Everyone has a different vision about what a marijuana dispensary is supposed to look like," Brown said. "We take the stigma away."
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You should know
It's not just any road closure. A culvert replacement and pavement patching project will shut down Route 22 over Flint Creek in Lake Barrington through mid-October. But ambulances and people with emergency situations will still be able to reach Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital from the east using Route 22 during construction, officials said.
The roadwork will stretch between Harbor Drive and Old Barrington Road. Detours will be posted and a flagger will assist with emergency hospital traffic.
The state had intended to completely close the road, but a compromise was reached after the hospital and local fire departments raised concerns about delays.
"I'm happy we got to a point at which everyone was satisfied and the health of patients in emergency situations is addressed," state Sen. Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods said.
One more thing
If you're sitting alone in an empty office Friday afternoon, consider using Metra. The railroad will offer an early departure schedule Friday with extra trains before 5 p.m. For information, go to Metrarail.com. Metra is also extending its $10 unlimited rides weekend pass to include Labor Day, but remember trains will operate on a holiday schedule Monday.
Learn the Byrne
Knowledge is power and it may help your justifiable frustration over the never-ending Jane Byrne Interchange construction project. IDOT is beefing up its Jane Byrne website and promising more updates and easier navigation. You may find this wonder at janebyrneinterchange.org.