Police advise: If you don't want pot this week, don't even drive around three suburban shops
The start of recreational marijuana sales could be so busy at one dispensary Wednesday that police are advising anyone not looking to partake in the first day of the legal market to stay away.
The North Aurora Police Department sent a community advisory and a Facebook post Tuesday asking drivers to avoid the area of Route 31 and Airport Road, where the medical marijuana dispensary Verilife plans to start sales for adult recreational use at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
"We're expecting heavy traffic in the area for the first several days," the advisory said. "As such, we recommend that you avoid the area if possible."
Deputy Chief Scott Buziecki said the advisory aims to make sure drivers aren't in the dark about the potential for unusual road conditions.
"We don't want people to get mired in a traffic jam," Buziecki said. "We think it's better to let them know, 'Hey, it might be kind of busy here in the next few days, so if you don't have to go that way, take a different road.' We're trying to be prepared."
North Aurora police will have four officers directing traffic near Verilife and others on duty if needed, with all overtime expenses paid by the dispensary, Buziecki said.
Police in Addison and Mundelein are joining those in North Aurora preparing for the advent of the legal recreational market, which launches under the state's Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. The law allows adults 21 and older to buy and possess cannabis and to use it in private.
Medical dispensaries that were granted "early approval" licenses from the state are allowed to begin recreational sales if they're also given local zoning permission. In the Northwest and West suburbs, Verilife in North Aurora, along with EarthMed in Addison and Rise Mundelein, are the only ones ready to go.
In Addison, the start time at EarthMed is 10 a.m., an hour set by a village ordinance governing marijuana sales.
"I think there's probably going to be a rush to buy it because it's new. We've been expecting this," Addison police Chief Timothy "Bill" Hayden said. "We'll have police on hand to help people find parking spaces, form lines, make sure everything is orderly."
Police will address any traffic and parking issues that crop up from the public right of way, not from the property of EarthMed itself, Hayden said. The dispensary is not paying the village for any of the police presence.
In Mundelein, parking could be an issue with limited spots at Rise, which opens at 6 a.m. But Dina Rollman, senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs for Rise's parent company, Green Thumb Industries, said the store has made agreements with its neighbors in an industrial district, many of which will be closed for New Year's Day, to provide more spaces.
Rise itself will welcome first-day customers with heat lamps, tents and food trucks between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., said Linda Mariscano, a spokeswoman for Green Thumb Industries.
Private security will be on hand, and Mundelein police Chief Eric Guenther said two officers detailed to the area, contracted by Rise, also will be there beginning at 6 a.m. The department began checking the area for early arriving customers Tuesday evening.
"We will be there from open to close all week and will evaluate moving forward," Guenther said. "Our responsibility will be parking issues, traffic and ensuring usage laws are followed. We will not necessarily be on the property of Rise just in the immediate area."
• Daily Herald staff writer Russell Lissau contributed to this report