Weed dispensary near me: The difference between regulated weed stores and unregulated CBD shops

CHICAGO (WLS) — The ABC7 I team has been investigating the differences between “unregulated” CBD shops and “regulated” pot shops.

Some critics of unregulated stores believe that signs and advertising can be misleading and confusing to customers.

Consumer researcher Jason Knowles has tips to help you spot the differences as you shop.

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Recreational cannabis became legal in Illinois in 2020. Since then, dozens of state-regulated shops have opened throughout the area, all with high security.

But there can be cannabis confusion. There are now CBD stores that sell products made from hemp and have little regulation.

“It’s definitely frustrating, I’m sure for newer customers,” said Michael Yourg.

Yourg said he prefers to buy his pot from a regulated, state-licensed cannabis dispensary because, there, he said, he knows exactly what he’s getting.

“Being called a dispensary comes with a lot of scrutiny. You know, from background checks to security to product testing and quality and purity. There’s a lot of trust with that name,” he said .

Sunnyside spokesman Jason Erkes said regulated dispensaries like the Sunnyside store in River North are not happy about the opening of dozens of new unregulated CBD shops.

The stores do not sell marijuana and are not regulated because they sell products made from hemp, a plant cousin to marijuana. They are supposed to have less than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. Some shops also sell “delta 8”, which is synthetic THC.

But without testing standards, critics have said that some products could be stronger than you think and that some CBD storefronts have misleading signage.

“I definitely think consumers are confused. I mean, there are two companies that call themselves the exact same thing. One comes with quality and purity and potency and an undeniable level of scrutiny and one just opens up and puts up a record. There it makes a big difference,” Erkes said.

There are currently 110 regulated and licensed dispensaries in Illinois and 185 more on the way. These companies go through a strict verification process. State law says a “dispensary” means a facility operated by a dispensing organization in which activities are licensed. The state also says that “substances derived from cannabis must be regulated under the Industrial Hemp Act.”

But dozens of unregulated CBD stores are posting and marketing themselves, using the name “dispensary” and the words “cannabis dispensary.”

Second Ward Councilor Brian Hopkins weighed in on the issue.

“You can’t falsely advertise product A when you’re actually selling product B,” he said. “They’re trying to make you think you can go in there and get a cannabis product that was grown in a certified lab under sterile conditions, properly regulated.”

Hopkins also worries that people are consuming the unregulated versions and aren’t sure how much they’re getting.

He recently introduced an ordinance that says no one can use the words “dispensary” or “cannabis dispensary” unless the store is licensed by the state. It also says unlicensed shops should not use the image of a cannabis leaf or bud.

“These places started popping up and putting signs in their window to suggest they were a cannabis dispensary when the first we hear about them is the day they opened. That’s unacceptable,” he said.

The I-Team stopped by two unregulated CBD shops. Managers declined to discuss the criticism. However, some consumers see the benefits.

“Younger people, they prefer to go to unregulated places. It’s cheaper,” said Rabbe Nesbit.

If you are a consumer and want to make sure you are in an authorized dispensary, follow these steps:

A state regulated dispensary will always have security at the front of the store or outside.

“When you go into a regular dispensary, you’re scanning your ID into the system to make sure they know your age and you can buy and you can tell because of a greater sense of security and awareness that you’re inside a regulated shop,” Erkes said.

In a regulated store, you can’t touch the product until you pay. Also, you’ll also need to use cash or a debit card, not a credit card.

The Better Business Bureau also said it is fielding complaints from consumers trying to browse.

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“So a lot of times consumers come to us confused. And this kind of advertising would only confuse them more than before.” said Steve Bernas, president of the Better Business Bureau for the Chicago area.

The Illinois Attorney General is also monitoring the issue and encouraging consumers who feel they have been misled to file a complaint.

The ordinance that would add advertising and language rules to CBD stores is in its early stages, but could go to a full vote in the coming weeks.

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