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8 Best Dispensaries in Chicago

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best dispensaries in chicago
Photo: That French Bloke / Shutterstock

The Illinois adult-use cannabis market opened for business on New Year’s Day 2020 to crowds of hundreds who lined up before sunrise in Chicago for a chance at being among the first to purchase cannabis from a licensed dispensary. In total, nearly 77,000 customers spent $3.2 million on the first day of recreational sales in Illinois. Since then, the market has only grown in popularity with adult-use cannabis sales surpassing liquor sales in 2023 by $140 million.

Illinois Monthly Retail Cannabis Sales
Data: cannabis.illinois.gov

With about two dozen licensed recreational cannabis dispensaries spread across a city with 2.6 million residents and nearly 50 million annual tourists, many Cook County shops can turn a profit with minimum effort. But among the dispensary owners who want to earn more than their fair share of the Windy City’s ample cannabis revenue, the type of competitive spirit that drives customer satisfaction and loyalty is alive and well.

To help identify the select shops vying for recognition as the best Chicago dispensary, we scoured through popular cannabis industry and mainstream review platforms including Google, Leafly, Yelp, and Weedmaps. In selecting our final list, we accounted for the total review score, number of reviews, and strong marks seen across multiple review sites. 

While motivations for a review can vary between a genuinely exceptional experience and a desire for a small discount, the result is often the same—repeated public recognition that stays online for months if not years to come. The following nine dispensaries in Chicago have each found ways to motivate customers to share a positive experience on their review platform of choice, providing a roadmap of happy customer experiences for dispensary owners and managers in any market to consider following.

Curaleaf Melrose Park
Photo: Curaleaf

Multistate operator

  • Google: 4.9 (1,000 reviews)
  • Leafly: 4.8 (95 reviews)
  • Yelp: 4.9 (1,000 reviews)
  • Weedmaps: 4.9 (54 reviews)

With an operational presence in 14 states, Curaleaf is one of the most widely recognized cannabis brands in the nation. And while the phrase “high quantity” can feel dangerously synonymous with “low quality,” that doesn’t seem to be the case for Curaleaf—at least not this Melrose Park location.

There’s nothing obviously unique about the North Avenue dispensary, given it was modeled to mimic the rest of the country’s Curaleaf locations in look, feel, and available cannabis products. Instead, Melrose Park appears to shine for its customer service, which reviewers have described as kind, welcoming, and eager to help. 

Regulars also report the location seems to have the best and most frequently occurring deals and discounts in the area—in fact, they consider it the best-priced dispensary in Chicago—and easy-access parking is always a plus in a big city. 

Zen Leaf Pilsen dispensary
Photo: Zen Leaf Pilsen

Multistate operator

  • Google: 4.7 (3,300 reviews)
  • Leafly: 4.9 (896 reviews)
  • Weedmaps: 4.7 (444 reviews)

Like Curaleaf both in name and vibe, Zen Leaf operates in 12 states as a reliable and easy-to-recall brand. Pilsen residents who call Zen Leaf the best dispensary in Chicago like their neighborhood location for its “friendly and courteous” staff, a wide variety of products, and an even wider variety of deals.

According to the reviews, Zen Leaf Pilsen seems to have a discount for every customer persona: first-time visitors, veterans, youth caregivers, seniors, higher education students, and those with social security disability insurance. The shop also offers a robust rewards system that customers can redeem throughout the state. 

Curaleaf Northbrook dispensary illinois
Photo: Curaleaf

Multistate operator

  • Leafly: 5.0 (112 reviews)
  • Weedmaps: 4.8 (86 reviews)

Curaleaf returns to the list with its Northbrook shop, a sprawling, high-ceilinged building located at 755 Skokie Blvd. Locals say they love the space for its polished, woody and warm feel, which likely complements its vast product selection and inspires customers to take their time.

Reviewers laud the location’s great customer service, product variety, convenient parking, and “best dispensary deals in Chicago.” It’s also recognized by its regulars for being sleek, spacious, and always clean. One of the smartest things this Curaleaf dispensary does is offer a 15-percent discount on customers’ first three orders. By encouraging customers to return three times instead of relying on a larger first-time deal, the shop is establishing brand loyalty, whether the customer is conscious of it or not. 

cannabist interior with glass display cases, a shiny cream hardwood floor, navy blue walls, plants on the right wall and products on the left
Photo: The Cannabist

Multistate operator

  • Google: 4.6 (1,100 reviews)
  • Leafly: 4.9 (289 reviews)

Another popular MSO is The Cannabist, previously known as Columbia Care. The recoined dispensary chain markets itself as a “higher standard” for products, customer service, and consumer education. The brand earned recognition as one of mg‘s Leading Industry Employers in 2021, largely thanks to its nationwide operations.

The Cannabist’s emphasis on non-intimidating education seems to be the secret of its success. Online reviewers give it high ratings for attentive customer service, a thorough breakdown of products, and a seemingly genuine desire to help. The only complaint this location gets is for its long wait time, which also speaks to The Cannabist’s high popularity.

Verilife-River-North
Photo: Verilife

Multistate operator

  • Google: 4.9 (3,600 reviews)

Verilife operates in six states, and River North ranks as one of the brand’s most favored locations. Reviewers enjoy this dispensary’s spacious setup, product mix, and ability to check out through personal kiosks for an in-and-out, bank-like service experience. The shop offers a wide variety of crowd-favorite brands, like Cookies, Cresco, Flower by Edie Parker, and more. 

EarthMed Chicago dispensary
Photo: EarthMed

Independent operator

  • Leafly: 4.7 (832 reviews)

Chicagoans rank EarthMed on the pricier end of the cannabis retail spectrum, but it’s still a local favorite for its knowledgeable, eager-to-help staff and high-quality offerings. Reviewers think that EarthMed does a good job prioritizing medical and recreational visitors, ensuring everyone’s needs are fulfilled with all questions addressed. The shop also keeps a close tab on social equity efforts, offering various initiatives and programs throughout the year to support a fair industry. 

Mission Dispensary Chicago
Photo: Mission Dispensary

Independent operator

  • Google: 4.7 (2,400 reviews)

According to consumers, another one of the best dispensaries in South Chicago, IL is Mission Dispensary, a local staple with an exposed brick, urban-like interior, and a laid-back vibe. Reviewers claim Mission Dispensary tends to have all of the newest products before any of its competitors: a powerful, credibility-boosting reputation to have in the Chicago cannabis scene. 

Whether it’s the first to break new drops or not, Mission certainly offers all of the bare necessities—flower, pre-rolls, edibles, tinctures, vapes, concentrates, topicals, and accessories—along with branded apparel so happy customers can move about as walking advertisements after making a purchase, if they so please.  

Karma Club Chicago dispensary
Photo: Karma Club

Independent operator

  • Google: 5.0 (314 reviews)
  • Yelp: 5.0 (4 reviews)

Recognized as the best downtown Chicago dispensary by avid reviewers, Karma Club is an independent operator focused on social equity and community outreach. The interior alone will help show why it’s one of the most frequently visited weed dispensaries in Chicago. Touted as a “sanctuary for newcomers,” Karma Club is approachable, colorful, and fun. Customers feel like they’re hanging out with new friends, and checking out some cool Chicago cannabis products in the meantime. 

Based on its regular community events, deals, and special offers—like budtender-recommended product bundles or “Voice of the Customer” feedback surveys—it’s clear that Karma Club is devoted to its neighborhood and determined to understand its unique needs. The website features a variety of product spotlights to regularly educate consumers on the latest offerings. Mission also rolls out limited seasonal products to attract hype with examples including infused lozenges and hot cocoa for cold and flu season.

Frequently asked questions about cannabis in Chicago

How much can you purchase a dispensary?

Residents of the State of Illinois may purchase and possess 30 grams of cannabis flower, 5 grams of concentrate, and 500mg of edibles. According to state law, non-residents are restricted to purchasing and possessing 15mg of cannabis flower, 2.5mg of concentrates, and 250mg of edibles. 

When was cannabis legalized in Illinois?

Medical cannabis became legal in 2013 with the passage of the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. In 2016, Illinois decriminalized cannabis by reducing punishment for under 10 grams of cannabis to a $100 to $200 fine from a misdemeanor charge. In 2019, Governor J.B. Pritzker expanded the medical program by adding new qualifying conditions. In 2019, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. The program operates under the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. 

Do Chicago dispensaries accept out-of-state medical marijuana cards?

No, Illinois does not allow out-of-state medical cannabis cards, often referred to as reciprocity. Visitors from other states who wish to purchase cannabis for medical reasons will need to follow the rules and regulations of the state’s adult-use program.



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