Marijuana dispensaries in Cary, Crystal Lake, McHenry and Richmond close in on opening dates

Cary’s Vertical Dispensary expects to have soft opening Tuesday

The new Vertical Dispensary, in Cary on Friday July 7, 2023. The dispensary might be the third dispensary to open in McHenry County.

If opening an adult-use marijuana dispensary in McHenry County were a horse race, then there are several contenders champing at the bit to get started.

The first out of the gate is Cary’s Vertical Dispensary at 20 Northwest Highway, development director Anthony Rein said. He expects to open doors to customers on Tuesday.

Up next is the Spark’d dispensary in Richmond. Initially, the company hoped to be open by April 20, and then before last weekend’s Country Thunder music festival.

“We are now looking to open Richmond, hopefully in ... early August,” said Abigail Watkins, the Spark’d marketing manager.

Spark’d also owns Crystal Lake’s second adult-use marijuana dispensary. That is expected to open in September.

The last dispensary expected to open soon is EarthMed at 1711 N. Richmond Road in McHenry. That company took over the former Panera Bread location, which is building a new location a few doors away.

Renovations started at EarthMed in late June, said Ross Polerecky, McHenry’s community development director.

It is really good that these [dispensaries] are all starting to progress and can open up and see some revenue.

—  Spark'd Dispensary marketing manager Abigail Watkins

When the county’s new dispensaries open, they will join RISE Lake in the Hills, 270 N. Randall Road, and Ivy Hall Crystal Lake, 501 Pingree Road.

Recreational marijuana became legal in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020, but the dispensaries came slowly. Setbacks, including the COVID-19 pandemic, judicial restraining orders preventing the state from approving dispensary and craft grow licenses until late spring 2022, and supply chain bottlenecks contributed to the sluggish start.

“We finally seem to be moving forward” with dispensaries in the county, Pamela Althoff said. The Republican McHenry County Board member from McHenry recently retired from her job as executive director of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois.

Those who had immediate financial resources were able to move forward with dispensaries early on, Althoff said.

But just 75 dispensaries opened before the lawsuits came and “then it all shut down. Once the [social equity license] lottery moved forward, those who were awarded licenses that also had significantly greater financial resources got to move forward” first, Althoff said.

The people running Cary’s Vertical Dispensary are all “blue collar hard working regular folks,” Rein said. The project was completely self-funded by its investors, he added.

Anthony Rein, the development director for new Vertical Dispensary, inside the dispensary in Cary on Friday July 7, 2023. The dispensary might be the third dispensary to open in McHenry County.

The Cary dispensary’s occupancy permit from the village came in just the past week, as did the needed approvals from state and local police. “We started taking in inventory in the last 48 hours,” Rein said Thursday.

Watkins, at Spark’d, said they decided to include a consumption lounge at the Richmond location, 9705 Prairie Ridge Road.

Customers can bring their purchased product into the lounge to “smoke, hang out, do some work if they are productive stoners like that, or try new products,” Watkins said.

Housed in the former Blackhawk Bank, the company had to remove the drive-through lanes and add walls. Neither could they use the vault already installed at the bank for their products.

“We had to build our own vault,” Watkins said.

Richmond was unable to open before last weekend’s Country Thunder music festival in Wisconsin, when the village sees a large bump in traffic heading to the festival.

But next year’s festival “will be a good time,” Watkins said.

About a month after Richmond opens, the Spark’d Crystal Lake facility should open at 330 North Route 31 in the former Pablo’s Mexican restaurant.

The last dispensary expected in the county, at least until late fall, is McHenry’s at 1711 N. Richmond Road.

EarthMed’s chief operations officer Michael Perez said in April that once renovations started, he expected to open 90 to 120 days later.

For those keeping count, there will be three dispensaries between Crystal Lake and Richmond on what is basically Route 31. (The state road ends and becomes U.S. 12 just south of Richmond).

That is a good thing, Watkins said.

“It is really good that these [dispensaries] are all starting to progress and can open up and see some revenue. The hope is for the social equity people to see some revenue and not keep waiting it out,” she said.

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