Steve Chapman

Inside was a small room with glass cases, where a tall salesman with scruffy whiskers brought out jars of cannabis, explained their different effects -- "This is more of a heady high than a body high," whatever that means -- and held them up for us to smell. (A sign says, "Please do not handle the jars or bud.") A couple of whiffs was enough to make my head hurt.

The staffer also showed us a small jar of Blue Kudu Chocolate, whose label says, "Semi-sweet chocolate with orange flavoring. Warning: Extremely potent. Do not eat all at once." Dowd must be one of those people who refuse to read food labels and never comprehend that corn chips are high in sodium.

I asked the clerk whether the shop ever has problems with the police. "The cops are our best friends," he replied. "They want this to work." He assured us that people drive better, not worse, when they're stoned, and predicted that marijuana will be legal nationally in a year. Whatever he was smoking must be really good.

We went out and into the "Garden Viewing Corridor," which afforded a view of rooms full of plants under lights that cast a faint lavender glow. To me, it resembled an ordinary nursery. But of course this is not an ordinary establishment. It's a legal outlet for a recreational drug that has long been the target of prohibition.

An affable security guard dressed in shorts and a T-shirt told me he likes working there. "I worked in a psych ward before, and this is a lot easier," he said. Ever have trouble with customers? "The only problem we have here is people coming in drunk."

Got that? At the cannabis dispensary, the people you have to watch out for are the drinkers.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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