UPTOWN — A company has proposed opening a medical marijuana dispensary inside the former Nick’s Uptown bar.
Advanced Herbal Alternatives, a company formed to participate in Illinois’ four-year medical marijuana pilot program, wants to open the dispensary at 4015 N. Sheridan Rd. in a building it would have to lease from current owner Thorek Hospital.
The plan requires a special-use permit, something that typically hinges on aldermanic support — which is where the Buena Park Neighbors Association comes in: Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said he would only support the plan if the group supports the measure.
Jon Erickson, one of the principles at the company, detailed his plans in an email to the group over the weekend that said the dispensary would serve patients suffering debilitating conditions such as HIV/AIDS and cancer.
The company would donate a portion of its proceeds to Howard Brown Health Center, a nonprofit clinic next door with a focus on the LGBT community and on preventing and treating HIV/AIDS, and to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.
Though Advanced Herbal was expected to brief residents on their proposal at a Buena Park Neighbors meeting Monday night, representatives didn’t show.
Thorek wasn’t reachable for comment Monday to confirm if there was an agreement in place with the company. Buena Park Neighbors president Bill Petty told neighbors Thorek is “still thinking about if they want to do it.”
Petty reassured neighbors that “we’re not just going to approve the thing without having everybody have a chance to say what they have to say.” The matter was pushed to a later meeting so neighbors could get more information.
Uptown resident George Bikakis said he thought the dispensary, “if it’s properly done it could be a good source of jobs and development for the community.”
Buena Park resident and block club officer Gene Tenner predicted some pushback from some people in the neighborhood worried about the stigma a marijuana dispensary could bring.
But, “it’s medicine and people need it,” he said. “I don’t think you’re drawing in a bad element.”
Case managers at Howard Brown said the dispensary would help their HIV-positive clients, including many who suffer from wasting syndrome, lack of appetite, nausea, insomnia and chronic pain.
“I know many of my clients are going to be enrolling as patients,” Case manager Cat Ross said.
She noted that the state’s legislation for medicinal marijuana is “pretty strict” and only allows doctors to recommend marijuana for a list of seriously debilitating illnesses that doesn’t include anxiety and depression.
Erickson’s emailed message went to great lengths to assure neighbors that security measures would be thorough at the proposed dispensary.
“The pilot program for medical cannabis can only be successful if our organization maintains strict control over all inventory in our possession so as to prevent any potential for theft or diversion,” he said.
But one Buena Park resident cited problems that marijuana-related businesses have had with getting banks to let them open bank accounts, and worried that that could cause security concerns with large amounts of cash on the premises.
“Given the the issues with crime and other things in the neighborhood, I’m not sure a business that operates fully on cash would be a good thing for this neighborhood,” he said.
The Obama administration has tried to nudge banks toward doing business with legal marijuana businesses. Yet, financial institutions have been reluctant.
Medical marijuana businesses had a Monday deadline to apply for a limited number of permits.
Illinois will grant 60 dispensary licenses, 13 of which can be located in the city. According to Chicago’s rules, dispensaries must be 1,000 feet from schools and day-cares and can’t be in residencies. A public hearing would be held before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals before a permit would be issued.
The state still has the final say.
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