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On Eve Of Legal Marijuana In Illinois, North Aurora Dispensary Prepares For Crowds And Medical Patients Worry About Supply

NORTH AURORA, Ill. (CBS) -- Legal recreational marijuana goes on sale in Illinois on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020.

As CBS 2's Vince Gersaole reported Tuesday evening, the 46 stores licensed to sell marijuana in the state operate not just in crowded urban settings. He traveled to the far western suburbs for a look at how the sales might impact one suburban community.

At the Verilife dispensary in North Aurora, staffers on Tuesday were counting out cash drawers and stocking shelves with all sorts of marijuana products.

The dispensary serves some 300 medical patients each day as it is.

"For me, it's been a miracle drug," said Michael Kalady of Oswego.

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But Verilife could see those numbers jump fivefold on Wednesday with recreational sales.

"Anybody coming out for adult use, it's not going to be in and out," said Dan Militello of Verilife. "We have a lot of people coming."

The dispensary has expanded its sales floor by two counters. Saying, "It's time," Verilife has also prepared colorful menus to share with those in line to help them better understand dosing and what strain of cannabis is best for them.

"We've leased some extra space downstairs to queue people up. We have extra third-party security to help with parking," Militello said.

The dispensary is located along a four-lane roadway. Even the North Aurora police tweeted to, "Avoid R. 31 beginning Wednesday due to heavy expected traffic for cannabis dispensary opening near R. 31 & Airport Rd."

For now, medical patients like Kalady worry about their access to products.

"I'm from the 60s. I was at the original Woodstock, so I've been around marijuana all my life," Kalady said. "They're going to get pounced on really, really hard."

"There definitely is a shortage," Militello said.

Growers say a recent uptick in medical users strained the supply chain, and many dispensaries are already limiting recreational sales. At Verilife, patients get preferred status in line and can preorder online.

"It's now more like a retail experience, but there are certain things that are just out of our control," Militello said.

All sales must be reported immediately to the state through a system called Helix Biotrack. However, dispensaries report its servers have crashed in recent weeks.

Biotrack promises an updated system by Wednesday, but if its overwhelmed by massive crowds, sales by law come to a halt.

"If the system cannot communicate, we can't process transactions," Militello said.

Whether far suburbs or city, it's expected curiosity and crowds will last for at least a few weeks as Illinois comes face to face with legal weed sales.

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