Familiar Chicago names involved in medical pot industry

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There are some familiar names involved in the brand-new medical marijuana industry in Chicago.

The Chicago Sun-Times obtained 16 applications from marijuana entrepreneurs seeking a special use permit from Chicago’s Zoning Board of Appeals. Without that permit, the marijuana businesses can’t open. Ultimately, the state will grant limited licenses to this new crop of business owners.

RELATED: Business owners seeking medical marijuana licenses faced lawsuits

Among those involved in this new Illinois industry, according to Chicago records, are:

  • Michael Alvarez: The City Hall lobbyist and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago commissioner has been retained by Organic Leaf Medical Dispensaries, which seeks to open a dispensary in West Town at 744 N. Damen, according to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Those records show Alvarez estimates he will be paid $165,000 from the group for his services as their Chicago lobbyist. The group has retained former state Rep. Julie Curry to be their Springfield lobbyist. She has been paid $36,000 records show. Organic Leaf has also retained the law offices of power broker Victor Cacciatore for zoning matters and had previously retained the law firm of Samuel V.P. Banks, another well-connected Chicago zoning law firm. Banks’ law firm is headed by James Banks, who became one of the city’s top zoning attorneys while his uncle, then Ald. William Banks (36th), headed the City Council Committee on Zoning.
  • Ted Tetzlaff: The former chairman of Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, or McPier, is the attorney for Chicago Alternative Health Center, which seeks to open a dispensary near Midway Airport at 5648 S. Archer in powerful Ald. Ed Burke’s 14th Ward. One of the officers of Chicago Alternative Health Center, Steven Castans, is a former chief of police of the Cook County Forest Preserve and claims Burke as a reference in his resume, application records show.
  • Rolando Acosta: The longtime zoning attorney is representing several companies seeking to open dispensaries in Chicago. He’s appearing before the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals on their behalf. His clients include: Om of Medicine, which seeks to open a dispensary in Streeterville at 211 E. Grand; Illinois ABJ Dispensaries, which seeks to open a dispensary in the busy commercial area in the 2700 block of N. Elston; and Phoenix Farms of Illinois, which seeks to open a dispensary in Pilsen at 500 W. 18th and in the Avondale neighborhood at 3433 N. Pulaski. Last month, his client, Kind Care, was granted a special use permit by the Zoning Board of Appeals to open an Avondale dispensary in the 3500 block of North Elston Avenue.
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