• Marijuana/cannabis
  • With permits issued, the race is on to build new weed shops

    Chicago’s zoning board approved five after an all-day hearing Friday.?Two of the permits were issued for River North. If they get built, they’d be the first weed shops downtown.

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    Chicago’s zoning board approved five new recreational marijuana shops after an all-day hearing Friday.

    Two of the permits were issued for River North. If they get built, they’d be the first weed shops downtown, much of which is off-limits to cannabis dispensaries under city zoning rules.

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    Cresco Labs won approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals for a dispensary at 436 N. Clark St., formerly home to the Baton Club. MOCA Modern Cannabis received a special-use permit for a shop at 214 W. Ohio St.

    79彩票注册网址Windy City Cannabis won approval for a dispensary at 923 W. Weed St., and MedMen received a permit for 1001 W. North Ave.

    Nature’s Care, owned by Acreage Holdings, a large cannabis company based in New York, received approval for a dispensary at 810 W. Randolph St. in Fulton Market

    With zoning approval, the race is on to build out dispensaries and pass inspections by the Illinois Department of Financial Regulation, which licenses dispensaries. The state left zoning up to local authorities, but it won’t allow dispensaries within 1,500 feet of each othe79彩票注册网址r. Cresco and MOCA’s locations in River North are within 1,500 feet, as are the MedMen and Windy City Cannabis locations in Old Town.

    79彩票注册网址“We’re thrilled to have received zoning approval and look forward to our state inspection so that we can begin providing access to recreational cannabis to the River North community,“ said Cresco spokesman Jason Erkes. 

    The zoning board mostly asked about security, traffic and parking considerations. In River North—the most sought-after location for new dispensaries because of the proximity to tourists, downtown workers and patrons of bars and restaurants—residents voiced concerns about security, crime, crowds and parking.

    Cresco is renting a nearby building on Hubbard Street that can accommodate a couple hundred people, who can place orders with dispensary workers while waiting to be called to the store to pick up their purchases. MOCA had planned for a patio next door to its shop, an idea that drew opposition from the Department of Planning & Development. Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, supported Cresco’s application but not MOCA’s.

    “I am incredibly frustrated with the ZBA’s decision to ignore strong neighborhood opposition when it unanimously approved MOCA’s cannabis application,” Reilly, whose ward includes River North, said Monday in a statement in response to questions from Crain's. “The River North Residents Association hosted over 12 hours of community meetings to carefully review these applications in a transparent way. They were thoughtful in their evaluation of these applications, and I believe they were very fair with all of the applicants.”

    The residents’ association opposed MOCA’s application, in part because it hadn’t seen a traffic-impact study. The ZBA said it was going to render a decision at the conclusion of Friday’s meeting and encouraged MOCA’s management to meet with Mike Riordan, president of the River North Residents Association and "work something out." Riordan protested that he would not be able to speak for his board, which would need to vote on whether to support or oppose the application, but he nonetheless met with MOCA representatives.

    “When both parties emerged from that back room without a ‘deal,’ the ZBA unanimously approved the application anyway. Quite a process,” Reilly said. “This is not the type of community-focused, transparent process the City Council was promised when we approved the city ordinance governing cannabis. I’m very concerned that process is broken, after witnessing ZBA’s first foray into cannabis application approvals.

    79彩票注册网址“I hope to discuss my concerns with the administration and my colleagues this week. No matter what, this process needs to be a lot more sensitive to the neighbors and neighborhoods most directly impacted by these businesses.”

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    River North residents see potential upside in weed shops, compared to the bars and nightclubs they might replace. Heavy security, including extensive video networks and armed guards, is appealing to residents increasingly wary of carjackings and other violent crime.

    “Losing a late-night liquor license is viewed as a big plus by residents, and concerns about security remain high,” Riordan testified during the hearing. “An armed security presence will be a deterrent to bad actors.”

    Michael Chasen, a former deputy chief of detectives at the Chicago Police Department who now is chief security officer for MOCA, told the ZBA, “There are no other businesses in Chicago that require this level of security.”

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