TH EXCLUSIVE: Early look at Galena marijuana dispensary opening this weekend

Divina Capellupo (left), Verilife district manager for Illinois, and Bill McMenamy, president of Verilife, on Thursday prepare the Verilife recreational marijuana dispensary to open in Galena, Ill., on Saturday, March 6. PHOTO CREDIT: NICKI KOHL

GALENA, Ill. — One year ago, Verilife President Bill McMenamy was scoping out Galena for a new marijuana dispensary.

PharmaCann, which operates dispensaries under the brand name Verilife, now is readying to open a recreational dispensary downtown on Saturday, March 6.

The business occupies a former bank building, which on Thursday bore “Verilife” signs draped down the exterior walls.

Customers age 21 or older can buy products at the dispensary as long as they provide a government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license or passport. Verilife follows all Illinois law regarding marijuana sales and use since it was legalized in the state on Jan. 1, 2020, McMenamy said.

Illinois residents can purchase up to 30 grams of cannabis in flower form or 500 milligrams of edibles, per state law. Non-Illinois residents can purchase up to 15 grams of cannabis flower or 250 milligrams of edibles.

Verilife dispensaries use an online reservation system to ensure products are available, McMenamy said. Customers can select their products online and set a time to pick them up and pay at the business.

“It’s like a mobile ordering system at Starbucks,” he said. “You just reserve your product, and you can reserve products up to 48 hours in advance.”

Customers will first enter a lobby area to have their ID scanned so they can enter the rest of the dispensary to pick up their products and pay. McMenamy said people can pay with cash — ATMs are located on site — or via a web-based app called Spence.

He said there is also flexibility for people shopping in downtown Galena who decide to walk in and buy products. Walk-in customers can consult with staff on products in which they are interested, and an employee can set a nearly-immediate reservation time.

Staff scan IDs again when customers pay for their product as an extra security measure, McMenamy said.

The dispensary will offer a wide variety of cannabis products, though Divina Capellupo, Verilife district manager for Illinois, noted that flowers, chews and vapes are the biggest sellers.

Consuming or using any of the product at the dispensary is prohibited, McMenamy said. Illinois law states that marijuana products can be used in private homes. However, customers purchasing recreational marijuana who live in Iowa or Wisconsin cannot bring the products across state lines.

McMenamy said Galena had everything his company was looking for in its westernmost location in Illinois. All of Verilife’s other Illinois stores, including two new ones set to open later this year, are in the Chicago area.

The dispensary is also following COVID-19 health and safety protocols, he noted. All employees will wear both a mask and a face shield, and surfaces will be sanitized every half hour. The desk in the lobby also has a plexiglass barrier.

Capellupo said the Galena store has 45 employees, most of whom are local. She added that staff have all been thoroughly educated on products and regulations, as customers often have a lot of questions when coming into a dispensary.

McMenamy also said Verilife likes to lend a hand in its community in any way possible, such as park cleanups and assisting with food giveaways.

“We’re incredibly excited to join the Galena community and to be able to provide jobs and driving revenue,” McMenamy said. “Galena has a million visitors per year, so this was a good location for us. Our goal is just to be able to serve the community.”