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Chicago Weed Shops Prepare for Lollapalooza, Potentially Record-Breaking Sales



We are collectively witnessing how the rise of legal, adult-use cannabis will influence longstanding events and U.S. culture in a number of regards and regulations and legislation continue to shift; Namely, this weekend was the first Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago over its 30-year history where cannabis is legal in the state of Illinois.

While this maiden voyage of sorts for the music festival and cannabis legality poses many questions, many businesses prepared for a huge, potentially record-breaking weekend as attendees began to flow in. Research firm BDSA has already predicted the event could double sales over the weekend at Chicago-area dispensaries, with shops in River North and the West Loop likely to see the most profit.

The four-day event began on July 29 in Grant Park, and dispensaries nearby had already been stocking up and preparing for the festival.

To paint a picture, in 2019, 400,000 people attended the festival, and many participants come from out of the city or state. Though cannabis was newly legalized in Illinois, that’s not to say it wasn’t a popular substance at the festival in the past. A 2018 survey from Time Out also showed, out of 1,015 festival goers, more than one-third used cannabis in Grant Park at Lollapalooza.

The closest cannabis shop to Grant Park, The Sunnyside dispensary on North Clark Street in River North, prepared by bringing in corporate support staff, stocking the shelves with extra product and charting out logistics to handle what they anticipate will be a very heavy weekend of sales.

“We expect it to be our busiest weekend that we’ve had to date since we opened, and are prepared to handle it. The store is fully staffed—it will be the first time we will have all 12 registers open,” Jason Erkes, a spokesman for the Chicago-based Cresco Labscannabis operator that owns the dispensary, told the Chicago Tribune.

Illinois legalized adult-use cannabis at the start of 2020, and the state has continued to smash records in regard to sales and tax revenue since. Earlier this year, Illinois had already exceeded $1 billion in total recreational cannabis sales since legalization, the state received more tax dollars from cannabis receipts than alcohol for the first time ever, and the state is set to surpass $1 billion in cannabis sales for 2021 alone if the trends continue.

Lollapalooza was launched in 1991 and settled in Chicago back in 2005, ultimately morphing into a huge draw for tourism in the city. Though, the event has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, namely being canceled last year during the height of the pandemic, now returning as the delta variant points to another rise in case counts and updated mask guidelines from health officials.

The list of places where masks are recommended indoors for vaccinated people still does not include Cook County, though dispensaries are staying vigilant with the increased traffic in mind.

“Right now, if you’re vaccinated, you can shop without a mask,” Abigail Watkins, spokeswoman for Dispensary 33 in the West Loop, told the Chicago Tribune Wednesday. “If there’s a new mask mandate, obviously we will have to change our policy.”

Proof of vaccination or negative COVID test was required to attend Lollapalooza.

Sunnyside is asking unvaccinated customers to wear masks in the store and is pushing for patrons to stray away from pre-pandemic traditions and keep joints and other products to themselves, in order to mitigate transmission risk at the festival.

Erkes says the River North location will be fully staffed, with their corporate office in tow to help take orders outside the store. He said their vault probably has 25 percent more product than it usually would going into a weekend.

BDSA said they expected the festival favorite at Lollapalooza to be gummies, as the event website notes that smoking and vaping are not allowed by the Chicago Park District. The firm reports 38 percent of cannabis consumers at the festival took gummies for their own convenience. Though smoking of any kind is not allowed, Lollapalooza website does not list any cannabis products specifically as prohibited.

“I can’t speak to what the rules for Lolla are specifically,” Sunnyside’s Erkes said. “But I can tell you that cannabis and music festivals go as far back as Woodstock over 50 years ago. And I wouldn’t expect that this year’s Lolla will be any different.”