Ald. Napolitano holds meeting on medical marijuana shop, says he’ll recommend what residents want


Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st) has said that he would not want to live next to a medical marijuana dispensary but he does not plan to let his personal feelings affect his recommendation on a proposed dispensary near the Milwaukee-Devon intersection.

“It’s not my decision. What I think doesn’t matter,” Napolitano told the 90 people who attended a June 25 community meeting at Olympia Park, 6566 N. Avondale Ave. “I’m going to with what you say you want as residents.

Napolitano invited residents who live in the ward or near the site of the proposed dispensary to come to his ward office at 7442 N. Harlem Ave. and fill out a form in favor or against the project. He asks that those want to register their opinion to present state-issued identification.

The dispensary, which would be operated by the Union Group of Illinois, would be located at 6428-30 N. Milwaukee Ave., which includes a vacant lot and a former medical supply shop.

Napolitano said that another community meeting on the dispensary will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 23, at the Oriole Park fieldhouse, 5430  N. Olcott Ave., and that he may schedule an additional meeting before the Zoning Board of Appeals holds a Friday, Aug. 21, hearing on a request for a special use permit for the project. The board acts independently of the City Council but does consider a recommendation from any alderman whose ward is affected by a proposal.

At the June 25 meeting, about 25 audience members raised their hand in opposition to the project, while about 20 raised their hand in support.

Some residents said that they would rather have the building vacant than have a dispensary there, while others said that the dispensary would attract criminals looking to prey on the dispensary’s customers.

“Those fears are not panning out in the other states that have this,” project attorney Mike Froelich said. Thirty-four states and Washington D.C. allow medical marijuana, although in 11 of those states it is very limited.

Several residents who spoke against the project said that they did not object to medical marijuana but opposed the proposed location. One man said that the dispensary should be located in an industrial area away from homes, while some residents asked why medical marijuana cannot be sold at existing pharmacies.

Pharmacies such as Walgreen’s cannot sell medical marijuana because it is illegal under federal law, prohibiting doctors from issuing a prescription for the drug, Froelich said. Under Illinois law, doctors can only recommend that a patient receive marijuana and that the state then reviews that recommendation before issuing a medical marijuana prescription card to the patient, who is subject to a criminal background check, he said.

The dispensaries will be operated as “members only” pharmacies, and other visitors will be prohibited from entering, Froelich said. Union Group’s plans call for a security guard and surveillance cameras, which would be accessible to law enforcement agencies and would record the license plates of vehicles in the dispensary’s parking lot.

Local 881 United Food and Commercial Workers Union legislative director Marina Faz-Huppert spoke in favor of the dispensary. She said that the union would work with the dispensary’s employees and ownership to ensure that workers are well trained and to help address potential problems before they can impact the community.

Another dispensary is planned for Jefferson Park at 4758 N. Milwaukee Ave.