Maria Rivera showed up at a Near West Side dispensary Tuesday afternoon to stock up on some of her favorite pot products a day before the drug is fully legalized statewide.
Rivera suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and regularly buys cannabis flower and pre-rolled joints at The Herbal Care Center, 1301 S. Western Ave. But Tuesday, she left empty-handed after realizing that her go-to choices weren’t in stock.
“On and off it’s been like that,” she said. “They don’t have as big a variety as when I first started coming in September, so I don’t know what to do.”
While officials and industry analysts have long warned of an imminent supply shortage, dispensaries licensed to sell both medical and recreational pot are required by law to keep a reserve of product for medical patients when the new sales kick off.
Like many of the state’s pot shops, The Herbal Care Center is pulling out all the stops for its first recreational sales. The shop — operated by Perry Mandera, the former owner of VIP’s A Gentleman’s Club — is setting up heated tents and offering free cocoa and coffee to the expected throng of new customers who will likely have to wait to purchase legal recreational pot. Waiting patrons will ultimately receive a text when they can move inside.
Michael Mandera, Perry Mandera’s son and the store’s general manager, said his staff will be ready for the influx of new customers. The Herbal Care Center is the biggest pot shop in the state, according to Michael Mandera, who claimed it also offers “the largest inventory.”
Michael Mandera stands in the showroom at the Herbal Care Center on Tuesday afternoon, December 31, 2019. | Brian Ernst/Sun-Times Brian Ernst/Sun-Times
But the huge LED screens that line the walls of the dispensary’s