© 2022 WNIJ and WNIU
Northern Public Radio
801 N 1st St.
DeKalb, IL 60115
Northern Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
There are several current and emerging markets in Illinois for cannabis-related products. Medical marijuana is already legal in the state, farmers are gearing up to grow industrial hemp, and lawmakers could consider a measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Whether or not recreational use becomes legal, the business of cannabis is already established in the Land of Lincoln and our reports are intended to bring you information related to these efforts."State of Cannabis" is a collaborative effort among public radio stations across Illinois.Special thanks to participating stations in reporting and editing:Illinois Newsroom, NPR Illinois, Tri-States Public Radio, WBEZ, WCBU, WDCB, WGLT, WILL, WNIJ, WSIU, WVIK-Reporter Roundtable-- Why are we doing this series now? Features WGLT's Ryan Denham, WSIU/Illinois Newsroom's Steph Whiteside, WNIJ's Sarah Jesmer -From Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, Rich Egger visited a medical marijuana cultivation facility in west central Illinois to get their perspective.-From NPR Illinois in Springfield, Jaclyn Driscoll has been closely covering the issue. She sat down with Sean Crawford to give us an update on the legislative timeline of recreational marijuana.-When Illinois issued the first licenses for medical marijuana businesses in 2015, almost all the recipients were white. We look at what a more racially diverse marketplace might look like if the state legalizes recreational use. From WBEZ in Chicago, Susie An reports.-Existing rules around the Illinois medical cannabis program could make the rollout for recreational use a less daunting task. But there are plenty of unanswered questions at the federal level which could complicate the process. From WNIJ in DeKalb, Chase Cavanaugh reports.-Northwestern Illinois’ Stephenson County is one area where changes in the status of cannabis are being embraced. The people doing it are not necessarily the ones you’d expect. From WNIJ in DeKalb, Guy Stephens has more.-From WSIU and Illinois Newsroom in Carbondale, Steph Whiteside explains how some patients are considering marijuana as an alternative to opioids.-From WCBU in Peoria, Tanya Koonce brings us the view from Peoria with a doctor who talks about how health providers are navigating conversations with patients who are considering marijuana use.-In today’s legal market, there’s more than just your typical joint if you want to get high. There are cookies, gummies, weed-infused drinks and more... but how might these different products affect you? From NPR Illinois in Springfield, reporter Jaclyn Driscoll has more.-The debate over legalization touches on so many thorny issues -- criminal justice reform, health care, and balancing a state budget coated in red ink. But it's also an economic issue. From WGLT in Bloomington/Normal, Ryan Denham visits a small town in central Illinois where medical marijuana has brought new jobs, new tax revenue, and a hope for more.-Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz says she’s concerned about how legalization could impact the juveniles she works with on a daily basis. She’s also concerned about how the state will address cannabis impaired driving. Illinois Public Media’s Lee Gaines recently interviewed Rietz.-Susan Stephens with WNIJ in DeKalb reports, attitudes are changing about cannabis use.-With conversations about legalizing recreational marijuana, you also may have heard about CBD. This is a very different hemp product and it’s completely legal. Sarah Jesmer with WNIJ in DeKalb reports, those in the CBD market are trying to prepare for possible changes on the horizon. -Illinois Governor J.B.Pritzker wants legalize recreational marijuana to provide an economic boost for the state. At Rock Island’s Augustana College, students have different reasoning behind their perspective. Reporter Natalie Spahn from WVIK in Rock Island found out, many identify themselves in the "pro" category. -Reporter Roundtable #2 There may be more questions than answers as state leaders consider their next step. Features WGLT's Ryan Denham, WSIU/Illinois Newsroom's Steph Whiteside, WNIJ's Sarah JesmerRELATED: Marijuana Investor Gives $9 Million To Harvard And MIT For Cannabis Science (WBUR)

CBD Sellers Consider Role In Marijuana Debate

Logan Chase wants his customers to know what they’re smoking.

“If I see something that I've never tried before,” he said, “I take it upon myself to try it.”

Chase welcomes each person who walks through the doors to shop the well lit shelves of glass bongs, brand-name grinders and colorful pipes.

State of Cannabis
This story is part of a weeklong series from Illinois public radio stations focusing on the potential impact of marijuana legalization.

“Obviously, all this stuff in here is to use for tobacco products, or your CBD,” said Chase.

CBD is one of the newer items on the menu in DeKalb’s Smoke Shop. CBD is one of the two most prevalent components of the cannabis plant. The other is THC, which widely is referred to as the stuff that gets you high. What customers buy from Chase is legal—a product of the hemp plant.

“So the sister’s illegal and the brother's legal,” said Chase.

Hemp products are legal so long as they have under .3% of THC. CBD products range from lotion and gum to oils used for the health benefits and smokeables.

Under Illinois law, medical cannabis is also legal. But shop owners need to apply for a license and it costs a shop well over $400,000 to go through that process. CBD is different than marijuana but they are derivatives of the same plant. Still, Chase said, from his perspective, it’s too expensive to consider joining the medical market.

Glass bongs
Credit Sarah Jesmer
Glass bongs sit on the shelves at The Smoke Shop in DeKalb.

“(Smoke shops are) kind of just stuck in the middle of it. We can choose what we want to do. But it depends if you have the funding, the material,” said Chase.

Elijah Olson works in a CBD shop in Chicago. We met in a public library because his shop’s owners were uncomfortable having a reporter enter their store.

Olson’s been working at the CBD shop just under a year. He says the products he sells are made in states where recreational marijuana use is legal. It’s unclear how tight the THC levels are regulated by the time they hit the shelves in Illinois.

Customer feedback is important for Olson, he says. That’s how he’s able to better understand the effects of what’s in the products he sells.

“I think companies need to be transparent in what they're selling and creating, and I don't think most of them truly are right now,” he said.

In the backroom of a place called Galaxy Starship, Tom Allen unboxes fresh CBD oil to add to his shelves. He owns a smoke shop in Sycamore, Illinois.

“We're not going to get into marijuana. We’re heavy into CBD and other herbs, things like that, that can help you naturally,” said Allen.

Credit Sarah Jesmer
The Smoke Shop in DeKalb sells CBD sweets like infused honey. Some products have QR codes on the label so customers can look up details on their phone about what exactly is in what their buying.

Allen says he buys his CBD products online to resell ... and says his business strategy speaks for itself: “We just buy everything and we let them decide. And everything I buy I sell.”

Allen says his shop doesn’t test their stock’s THC levels.

“That's why we go with the reputable company,” he said. “That way we make sure that it's pure.”

Customers can buy gas masks and bongs here, too, but Allen says that’s as far as he’ll go in entering the potential marijuana market.

“I think legalizing is a big mistake anyway. I think, you know, I think that they—the drug cartels—still have their network and they're going to bring a lot other, harder drugs down the pipeline once you take that away from them,” he said.

And one of the best ways for illegal dealers to do this is the dark web. Christopher Covelli is a spokesman with the Lake County Sheriff’s Cyber Crime Unit.

“Their ability to remain anonymous certainly is a key factor and a hurdle that we have to move over when investigating these types of crimes,” said Covelli.

Tom Allen holds the CBD oil
Credit Sarah Jesmer
Tom Allen holds the CBD oil he just unpackaged after buying the product online.

Covelli says investigations sometimes begin with tips from the post office or community. He notes federal agencies can help smaller police departments if they lack the resources to tackle online crime.

“What the future holds with decriminalization of any drug law, it's yet to be seen,” he said.

But Chase, the CBD seller in DeKalb, doesn’t think illegal markets are going anywhere regardless.

“People are still gonna look for the best price, and if you have that better price, why would they go to somewhere that's legal?”

For now it’s business as usual for shops like these until signed legislation shows what could be in store.