Please verify you are a human
Access to this page has been denied because we believe you are using automation tools to browse the website.
This may happen as a result of the following:
- Your browser does not support cookies
Reference ID: #85085090-35a6-11eb-89ab-f199bf3fdcec
Please verify you are a human Access to this page has been denied because we believe you are using automation tools to browse the website. This may happen as a result of the following:
We went to the recreational marijuana dispensary closest to Indy. This is what it’s like.
IndyStar’s Justin Mack visits Urbana, Ill., to learn everything about legal marijuana, from limits on products to taxes. IndyStar
URBANA, Ill. — If you think walking into a legal marijuana dispensary in Illinois is like walking into your local head shop, think again.
You’re not welcomed by that unmistakable aroma and giant piles of kush at every turn. Instead, the smell of air freshener hits you as you’re greeted by a friendly teller in a polo shirt seated behind a glass divider.
In the corner of the lobby, there’s a small orange couch and periodicals to thumb through while you wait. No one is on edge, and you don’t have to watch what you say. Everyone knows exactly why you’re there and is eager to help you have a pleasant transaction.
If it weren’t for the branding on the back wall and my knowledge of what was behind the security door, I would have thought I made a wrong turn and ended up at a credit union.
Welcome to NuMed Urbana, the closest legal recreational marijuana dispensary to Indianapolis.
Staff members working the front desk of NuMed Urbana on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. (Photo: Justin L. Mack/IndyStar)
Legal weed in the Midwest
In the past two months, the status of legal marijuana in the Midwest has gone from high and dry to just, well, high.
In December, Michigan became the first state in the Midwest and the 10th in the nation to begin legal recreational marijuana sales. Illinois rang in the new year by kicking off its own sales of legal recreational marijuana on Jan. 1.
While both states have had medical marijuana for years, making adult recreational marijuana all good in the eyes of law has created a scenario where Hoosiers can buy legally if they’re willing to spend a couple hours on the interstate.
Hoosiers seem to have already completed a few road trips.
“Some of our earliest visitors were from Indiana,” said Sean Johnson, a manager at NuMed Urbana, which first opened as a medical marijuana facility in fall 2016 before adding recreational products this year. “It’s pretty common. I wouldn’t be surprised if you glanced at some of the license plates out there now and saw some local ones.”
To see what all the buzz was about, we decided to take a road trip of our own.
We drove the 123 miles from Downtown Indianapolis to Urbana on a rainy Friday morning. Getting there was as easy as hopping on I-74 and heading west.
Even with a little morning traffic, we made it there in under two hours, stopping only to take a picture at the state line to prove to our bosses that we were actually heading to Illinois.
Justin Mack, standing at the Indiana-Illinois state line. (Photo: Stephen Beard/IndyStar)
We arrived about 45 minutes before the dispensary opened and there was already a line of people wrapped around the building, waiting in the rain.
Johnson was also right about the out-of-state visitors. Along with at least two other Indiana plates, cars from Ohio and Missouri were also present.
As large as the crowd was, it was nothing compared to what NuMed saw on New Year’s Day, the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales.
“On the first we were here at 4 a.m. and we definitely had people waiting out in their cars. There were even tents set up out there,” Johnson said. “There’s a business next door and they told us there are people literally showing up around the clock and tugging on our doors.”
But before you gas up the Civic to buy Fruit Goobies and Kushie Caramels (those are real product names) here is what you need to know about the new laws, and what it’s like to buy marijuana legally in Illinois.
Spoiler alert: It’s a lot more mundane than you might think.
Educational materials on display at the NuMed Urbana marijuana dispensary. (Photo: Justin L. Mack/IndyStar)
What you’ll need to buy
While figuring out what you want to order can be overwhelming for newbies, the purchasing process is pretty easy.
In both Michigan and Illinois, you must be 21 or older and have a valid state ID or passport. That’s it. No additional screening. No crazy security pat down. No secret handshake.
Be of age, have a good ID and the dispensary menu is yours to peruse without fear of prosecution.
Keep in mind that public consumption of marijuana is still illegal in Illinois and Michigan. Marijuana can only be consumed in homes and other private dwellings where smoking is permitted by the owners.
What to buy
After hanging out in NuMed Urbana’s bank-like waiting room and presenting your ID to the staff, you’re allowed access to the dispensary’s main room . which also looks like a bank, complete with teller lines.
There are two lines, one for medical and one for recreational. There are also checkout lanes once your order is ready to go.
If you’re a recreational customer, you begin by speaking with one of the staff members who greets customers in line. If you know what you want, it’s as simple as selecting from the massive menu of more than 200 products and having a seat.
As of Thursday morning, NuMed Urbana was sold out of recreational products. Johnson said the high demand has forced them to stop recreational sales multiple times since the first of the year to make sure medical patients are prioritized.
A look at some of the products available for purchase at NuMed Urbana, one of the many medical marijuana dispensaries that began selling legal recreational marijuana in Illinois at the start of 2020. (Photo: Justin L. Mack/IndyStar)
The full NuMed menu includes flower and vape options for smoking; edible options like candy, beverages and sprays; topical options such as balms and lotions; and potent concentrates that come in a variety of forms.
Each item is categorized as an indica, sativa or hybrid so consumers have a better idea of what kind of experience they’ll have.
Products made from sativa cannabis plants generally produce more energetic effects suitable for daytime use. Items made from indica plants offer more relaxing effects suitable for nighttime use.
If you’re a first-timer, the staff member is there to answer all your questions and make a recommendation based on what you’re after. Johnson points out that those needs can vary greatly.
“If it’s an 89-year-old woman who has never tried it before and is scared of it, I’m going to try a micro-dosing option with a small amount of THC and CBD . and have her basically use that as a measuring stick to find her minimum effective dosage,” he said. “But it’s really going to be based on the conversation with the individual.”
Lori Kistler, right, of Rantoul gets an in-line consultation before picking up her order of edibles from NuMed Urbana on Jan. 10, 2020. Kistler, 58, is a first-time purchaser of legal marijuana who has considered trying medical marijuana for years. She said she is happy about legalization because it allows her to easily try marijuana to see if medicinal options may be right for her. (Photo: Justin L. Mack/IndyStar)
After the mini-consultation, the transaction plays out like waiting for your drink at Starbucks. The staff member will take your order back to “the vault” while you sit on one of the comfy couches and read the educational materials.
They call your name when it’s ready and you head to the checkout line to pick it up — but be sure to have cash. Like getting a double cheeseburger at Workingman’s Friend, plastic isn’t going to cut it.
Johnson said that’s because marijuana is still federally illegal, meaning federal law prohibits banks and credit unions from processing such payments.
NuMed has an ATM onsite for your convenience.
The prices and taxes mean bills can quickly climb into the triple digits. For example, one woman who purchased two candies, one disposable vape pen and two chocolate bars had a final bill of $156.
The taxes and how much you can buy
For cannabis flower and products with less than 35% THC, there is a 10% state sales tax. Cannabis-infused products like concentrates or edibles are taxed at 20%, but all products with a THC concentration above 35% have a 25% tax.
The higher you get, the higher the tax.
There is also a 6.25% general sales tax, and Illinois municipalities and counties are able to levy additional local sales taxes on top of the state tax. In September, the Urbana City Council approved a 3% tax on recreational marijuana.
When you add it all up, you could be paying more than 34% tax for some products.
Illinois residents over the age of 21 may legally possess 30 grams of cannabis flower, 500 milligrams of THC in a cannabis-infused product, or 5 grams of a cannabis concentrate.
Non-residents over the age of 21 may legally possess 15 grams of cannabis flower, 250 milligrams of THC in a cannabis-infused product, or 2.5 grams of cannabis concentrate.
The laws in Indiana
A reminder for those living in Indiana: Marijuana is illegal. Possessing, transporting, consuming or cultivating marijuana in the state of Indiana can get you arrested.
But in Marion County, simple possession of amounts less than an ounce won’t get you charged. Amounts of more than an ounce can still result in a criminal possession charge, and Prosecutor Ryan Mears said that amount was chosen in an effort to separate the users from the dealers.
It also doesn’t matter if the marijuana in your possession was purchased legally. You still can’t have it, and police are reminding Hoosiers not to bring marijuana back across state lines.
That was made clear on Jan. 1 when Indiana State Police troopers arrested a 26-year-old Hammond man who was in possession of marijuana he had purchased legally earlier that day in Illinois.
Police pulled him over when he was caught doing 103 mph on I-80/94 eastbound in Gary. He was also in possession of a Glock 22 handgun with an extended 50 round barrel magazine.
If you buy it in Illinois or Michigan, use it in Illinois or Michigan. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Call IndyStar reporter Justin L. Mack at 317-444-6138. Follow him on Twitter: @justinlmack.
Going to the closed legal recreational marijuana dispensary to Indianapolis? Study the menu in advance, bring cash and DON'T bring it back to Indiana!