Chicago police busted five black market weed dealers for allegedly selling their wares at two unsanctioned events last week, seizing more than a kilogram of cannabis, other pot products and hundreds of grams of psychedelic mushrooms.
Underground parties where unlicensed weed is sold and consumed have become increasingly common in Chicago. Yet the events are now testing the limits of cannabis enforcement in a state that legalized recreational sales well over two years ago — but still has strict restrictions on who can sell and where users can smoke.
Although regulated dispensaries have sold more than $3.5 billion in medical and recreational weed to date, experts agree the black market remains king. Meanwhile, in other legal states, like California and New York, robust gray markets have emerged as officials have in some cases turned a blind eye to unlicensed sellers cashing in on the so-called green rush.
The crackdown in Chicago started around 8:30 p.m. on May 29, when vice officers and officials from the city’s departments of Buildings and Business Affairs and Consumer Protection showed up to inspect the Smoking Buddha Shop, a bong store located at 972 W. 18th St. in Pilsen. Elisa Sledzinska, a BACP spokeswoman, said an event at the shop had been advertised online.
The store’s owner, 48-year-old Aldo Zambrano, initially stopped officials from entering and demanded a search warrant but relented after learning he had to comply with the inspectors, according to an arrest report. Zambrano couldn’t be reached by the Sun-Times and no one answered a phone number listed for the store.
Investigators then uncovered mason jars with an estimated 500 grams of cannabis and “a large quantity” of pot-infused edibles. “All items appeared to be packaged for resale and most items were on display on a table with a banner labeled ‘Toasty Treats Chi,’” according to the report, which notes the edibles had illegal levels of psychoactive THC.
The report states that baggies “packaged consistent with distribution” were also found to contain an estimated 90 grams of hallucinogenic mushrooms, while more pot-infused products were found in “various locations throughout the store.”
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