Residents raise concerns about proposed medical marijuana shop in Jefferson Park
by BRIAN NADIG
The operator of a proposed medical marijuana dispensary at 4758 N. Milwaukee Ave. told a crowd of 60 people at a Nov. 3 community meeting that the store’s façade would lack a sign across its building and be designed to blend in with the rest of the shopping district.
Curative Health chief executive officer Nicholas Vita said that at the company’s dispensary in Washington D.C., the neighborhood has experienced gentrification since it opened and that rental values have increased 25 percent in the mixed-use building that the shop is located in. He said that that none of the dispensaries in the three states in which the company operates have had crime problems, including burglary and loitering.
Only those individuals with a medical marijuana prescription card would be allowed into the proposed store, and their prescription identification card would have to be validated twice, Vita said. Initially the store would be open three days a week, with fewer than 10 clients a day, but in about 2 years, the number of daily customers would average between 20 and 50, he said.
Several residents expressed concern about the possibility of prescription holders selling or sharing their leftover marijuana and that doctors could write prescriptions for individuals who are not suffering from any type of chronic disease or debilitating illness. Under state law, prescription holders can receive up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks and can seek a waiver to receive additional amounts.
Vita said that “ultimately once it leaves the store, we lose control of it,” but similar problems can occur with the reselling of other prescription drugs. He said that a person’s medical marijuana prescription card will be valid at only one store and that requirement should result in a close relationship between the customer and store workers, who would be instructed to report problems to authorities.
Vita said that the Illinois medical marijuana law written was written to avoid the pitfalls which have occurred in California, where many dispensaries have been forced to close. He said that the Illinois law is a pilot program which the state could shut down in 4 years.
Vita said that the store would have an extensive security camera system whose feed would be available to police and that the amount of inventory and cash kept on hand would be kept to a minimum. He said that Curative has an agreement with the Bank of Springfield to allow the use of debit cards at the store.
Congregational Church of Jefferson Park pastor Gayle Tucker said that the kitchen of her home would face the back of the dispensary building and that while she had safety concerns, Vita addressed those issues. She said that a previous occupant of the building purchased by Curative caused noise and other disturbances in the alley and expects that Curative would be better neighbor.
In response to questions, Vita said that Curative is a medical company that has no plans to sell marijuana for recreational use if it became legal in Illinois.
Alderman John Arena (45th) said that while he supports the concept of medical marijuana, he has not decided whether the proposed location is appropriate for a dispensary. It would be two doors away from Arena’s office at 4754 N. Milwaukee Ave., and a second application is pending at 4760 1/2 N. Milwaukee Ave., but there is “zero chance” of having two dispensaries in the same block, Arena said.
The Zoning Board of Appeals at its meeting on Friday, Nov. 21, is scheduled to hold a hearing on Curative’s proposal. The project requires the issuance of a special use, which are often required for taverns and other businesses that typically raise concerns among residents.
Four of the six dispensary applications in Jefferson Township, which includes the Northwest Side and extends as far south as North Avenue and as far east as Western Ave., are in the 45th Ward, and no more than two dispensaries can be located in a township in Chicago, Arena said. Two of the applications are for sites near the Montrose-Cicero intersection, but the city has not received special use applications for those sites, and it is getting late in the process, according to Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh.
Even if a special use if granted, the state will make the final determination on which applicants should receive a license, Arena said. A dispensary cannot be located within 1,000 feet of an elementary school or day-care center, he said.