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Bloomington-Normal Smoke Shops Prepare For Legal Marijuana

Mike and Becky Williams
Mary Cullen
Mother Murphy's owners Mike and Becky Williams are preparing for legalized weed at their smoke shop in Uptown Normal, one of the oldest head shops in the U.S.

Gov. JB Pritzker made good on his promise when he signed recreational cannabis into law last month.

While anticipation runs high among Illinois residents, smoke shops across the state are preparing for what they hope is an influx of customers.

Uptown Normal houses one of America's oldest head shops. Mother Murphy’s opened in 1968, catering to hippies before toking was cool in the Midwest. At least that’s how owner Mike Williams explains it.

The shop has been selling what is classified under current law as “drug paraphernalia” since its doors opened. Williams calls them “smoking accessories.”

“The truth about it is that anything that can be smoked with tobacco can also be used with marijuana. They're totally interchangeable. And so the law has to be based on intent, which is much harder to prove,” he explained.

When medical cannabis was signed into law in Illinois in 2013, Williams started offering products 10% off to users with a medical card. And now with legalization starting Jan. 1, Williams said he expects his client base will grow even more.

“We figure there's probably going to be a lot of people that would be reluctant to maybe try in the past because of the law, as well as people that have probably experimented in their youth, that are maybe getting close to retirement age like myself, and that maybe want to try it again,” he said.

With legalization in the near future, it sounds like the tradition of Mother Murphy’s will live on. Williams hopes so, but with retirement approaching, he said he and co-owner and wife Becky are thinking about their own futures.

“My wife and I are a little older and frankly we're thinking about retiring,” Williams admitted. “We'd like to see the Mother Murphy’s tradition continue on, and so maybe we'll be able to find somebody out there that wants to carry the tradition on.”

Smokers Euphoria

Mother Murphy's may be one of the oldest head shops with a steady clientele, but Smokers Euphoria is one of the new kids on the block.

Co-owner Javelin Lawrence told WGLT her take on a head shop is less about smoke and more about smart.

“I guess you would say, head-slash-vapor shop,” Lawrence said. “However, our customer base is a little different than your average smoke shop. We cater more to medicinal cannabis patients.”

Holding ground on the west side of Illinois State University’s campus, Smokers Euphoria aims to educate its patrons.

“If you were to come to (purchase) a particular item, we want to explain to you how to use it and how to effectively use the product to get the most medicinal value out of the product more so than just smoking to smoke,” Lawrence said.

The difference between smoking, vaping, ingesting, or applying cannabis products topically carry a range of strengths and effects. Lawrence said even the temperature that marijuana is smoked at can produce different results.

And when legalization takes effect next year, she said the Smokers Euphoria mission will stay the same.

“Even though we cater more to medicinal patients, anyone is welcome as long as they understand that we try to educate more so than just purchase a product,” she said. “We're not the type of shop that is pushing saying, ‘Hey, I want you to buy this.’ I want you to get the best product and have the best experience when you come to our shop.”

Cannabis is legal beginning Jan. 1. Any non-medical use before that date remains against Illinois law.

WGLT's full story about smoke shops.

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