Mission Dispensaries is a national chain of dispensaries that prioritizes education, destigmatization, and compassion for their patients. I spoke to Luis Vargas, the assistant manager at the Chicago location of Mission Dispensaries, Mission Illinois. Luis gave me some excellent insights about why Mission excels in Chicago and how GRAV fits into their vision.
Mission Illinois opened in July of 2017 and is still the only dispensary on the South Shore side of Chicago. Luis joined Mission because the dispensary’s goals to introduce patients to cannabis in a safe, knowledgeable, and judgment-free way aligned with his own. After experiencing legal cannabis for the first time in Colorado, Luis was inspired to help people access cannabis for its positive medicinal values and to dispel the plant’s negative reputation. Mission has been the perfect place for him to do just that.
Just a little over a year after opening, Mission Illinois has already made big advances in public outreach and destigmatization. They offer regular “canna classes”, including ones open to the public that cover cannabis 101 as well as classes for current patients at Mission that focus more on specific products and accessories. In cannabis 101 classes, students learn about the history of cannabis and how our society formed its current views. These classes provide a safe space for people to explore the subject without feeling like they’re doing anything wrong or illegal. During cannabis 101 classes, Mission staff also guide people through the process of applying to be a medical cannabis patient. This makes cannabis much more accessible to people who might be curious about it but have no idea where to start obtaining it legally.
In a medical-only state like Illinois, Mission must serve its patients through strict adherence to often complicated laws. One big advantage Mission has in this area is its relationship with 4Front Ventures, a hugely successful cannabis company that started as a consulting firm and has established Mission as its first dispensary brand. Mission sees 4Front as their “mission control” (get it?), helping them with the nitty gritty details of running a dispensary - compliance, HR, etc. The team at 4Front knows the industry and its laws inside and out, which is vital to Mission’s ability to stay operational and successful. Of course, Mission Illinois would love to see Illinois go recreational, and that dream might soon become a reality. When I talked to Luis, he was optimistic that the November 6th elections would usher in more local politicians who had full legalization on their agenda. Since we spoke, Illinois has experienced something of a blue wave, including the unseating of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner for Democrat JB Pritzker. The new governor-elect Pritzker has been very outspoken about his desire to take Illinois recreational, so Mission could have the chance to expand their customer base sooner rather than later. But however the political chips fall, Mission will remain, providing medicine and information to anyone authorized to receive it.
Photo from Leafly's Mission Dispensary Page
Mission proves its commitment to compassion and accessibility by providing discounts to patients who might not be able to afford cannabis otherwise. They offer a 20% discount on all medicine to people on social security or disability income as well as Veterans, and a 10% discount for seniors. They also have a compassion program that offers a 20% discount to people who need it on a case by case basis. This program is born of an understanding that many patients in Chicago and throughout the country are living paycheck to paycheck and aren’t always able to fit medical cannabis into their budget even though it may significantly improve their quality of life.
Many people have taken notice of the way Mission cares for their patients, and have transferred to Mission from dispensaries in other parts of town because of their superior customer service. This environment of educating and empowering, of advising patients but letting them choose what’s right for them rather than pushing whatever product needs to move that week, is made possible by a dedicated and passionate staff. This is exemplified by Mission Illinois’ general manager Rick Armstrong. Rick came to Mission from a restaurant background and had very little familiarity with cannabis when he started. He used his food service expertise to streamline Mission’s staffing and administration techniques and to offer new and improved customer service strategies. 7 months into his new position, Rick has gone from someone who didn’t know the difference between Indica and Sativa to an expert who can name specific strains and knows patients by name and product preference. It’s hard-working and caring people like Rick and Luis that make Mission the kind of place GRAV is proud to partner with.
Mission picked up our products in September, impressed by our reputation as one of the longest running glass companies in the business as well as our commitment to doing things differently. Luis wants his customers to know that not everything in the world of cannabis has to feel like it came straight out of a Cheech and Chong movie. GRAV’s customer base and aesthetic reinforce the idea that just like cannabis itself, glassware can be healthy, trustworthy, and even classy. In fact, after Mission brought in GRAV products they took the opportunity to have an “apparatus 101” canna-class. Staff members highlighted products patients might not know about like our Dugout, and explained how to use flower with both hand and water pipes. After this class, integrating GRAV products into Mission’s retail selection was a rousing success. Our Beaker Spoon has become a particular favorite, sparking curiosity and conversation with its playful mix of water pipe silhouette and hand pipe function.
If you ever get the chance to stop by Mission Illinois, make sure to ask for one in your favorite color. We’re sure you’ll be well taken care of.