I volunteered to cover this story: Is there any truth to the rise of middle-aged people, in particular women, using legal cannabis?

In a word, yes.

No one wanted to speak on the record, but for many weed is the newest cocktail, just without the liquor. One friend swears by her pot; she says it helps her cope with personal medical issues and everyday stresses.

In exploring the topic for the RoundTable, I learned about the effects of smoking a joint vs. rubbing on a salve or ingesting cannabis-infused gummies. I heard about cooking with cannabis and growing your own plants alongside the basil and dill.

For the sake of story research, Tuesday night I ingested a marijuana gummy. Miraculously, I slept seven hours straight. I woke up Wednesday feeling solidly rested, if not slightly dehydrated. I don’t remember the last time I slept so soundly for as long.

I had been curious. I tried pot in college a few times, but it’s been years (OK, decades) since I’ve smoked part of a joint. I love the smell of weed, but until cannabis use became legal under Illinois state law, I had never purchased marijuana in any form. I’m not a big drinker. But I was determined to see what the fuss was about and participate in some way in 4/20, the new-to-me April 20 marijuana celebration I learned about Monday.

I visited Zen Leaf on Maple Street. I was surprised how clean and brightly lit the store is. There’s a security station at the inner entrance where proof of ID is mandatory, and more helpful chatty staff inside.

The interior of the Zen Leaf marijuana dispensary on Maple Avenue. (Photo by Duncan Agnew)

It reminded me of a yoga studio combined with an airport check-in counter. Plenty of safety bollards are positioned to guide the flow of foot traffic, and wall shelves display products. It was not busy when I was there, less than an hour before closing on Tuesday, April 19, but I suspect many folks were holding out until the sales on 4/20. I was told every item in the store would be discounted 30%.

There is a well-used ATM in the corner. Zen Leaf only accepts cash or debit cards, and there is a surcharge for using a debit card. There are also tip jars in front of each salesperson. It’s been a while since I’ve shopped in a retail store other than for food, but I’m certain Nordstrom doesn’t have those.

Without a medicinal card, the price of any purchase increases by 30% due to taxes. The good news is the store offers discounts to college students (proof of valid college ID needed) and seniors (55+), and a 20% savings to seniors on Sundays.

The employees behind the counter know the products’ pros and cons and are happy to make recommendations or guide a customer’s choices based on desired effects. Pain relief, relaxation, sleep, energy, creativity, intimacy, hunger – there are products purportedly available to stimulate nearly any sensation.

I chose a jar of 10 gummies said to help with sleep, relaxation and pain reduction. The bill: $39.24 (That’s $32, minus my discount of $3.20, with tax of $10.44).

I was cautioned not to overdo it. The gummy could take an hour or more to start to take effect. Start slow, my friend warned. Don’t get impatient and gobble another one. Don’t drive after ingesting, either – if pulled over and caught, it could be counted as a DUI on your record.

I made dinner, did some work on my laptop and ate the yellow gummy as my dessert. It tasted medicinal, but at least it didn’t stick to my teeth. After an hour or so, I was noticeably tired. I got ready for bed and turned my light off around 11 p.m. – and did not wake up until 6 a.m. Seven hours of solid sleep is a win.

To my surprise, I look forward to ingesting the rest of the gummies. Slowly. After eating.

Wendi Kromash

Wendi Kromash is curious about everything and will write about anything. She tends to focus on one-on-one interviews with community leaders, recaps and reviews of cultural events, feature stories about...

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