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Lake View group opposes medical marijuana business

There hasn’t been a lot of resistance to the medical marijuana businesses seeking to open in the city of Chicago.

But that’s not the case in Lake View.

Residents there are making noise, hoping a medical pot dispensary isn’t allowed to open at 2843 N. Halsted Street.

Crime is a major concern for the group, which claims the dispensary would be in a highly residential area.

They worry trouble will stem from what is considered to be a mostly cash industry.

“Every single person in there has cash and every single person walking out has marijuana in their pocket,” said Galina Kapustina, a wardrobe stylist who lives across the alley from the proposed dispensary.

Kapustina, some of her neighbors and many of the nearly 800 people who have signed an online petition in opposition of the dispensary worry that means the medical marijuana business and its customers could be targets for criminals and that residents, and all the children who live in the area, could be caught in the crossfire.

MedMar, the company applying to open the dispensary in the building that once housed a bar but has been vacant for five years, said in a statement, “MedMar’s dispensary will have a high level of security inside and outside the building, including video cameras and security guards. Patients will be coming and going to get treatment for their medical conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and cancer. There are studies that show there is no link between dispensaries and an increase in crime, and with the increase of activity and extra security in the area, we believe public safety will actually be enhanced.”

But Kapustina, 32, doesn’t buy that.

“What is going to happen down the block when the person that gets this product or is walking with $1,500 of cash … is half a block or a block away?” she said.

Patients will be limited as to how much marijuana they can buy a month, according to state rules.

Not all neighbors are in opposition.

Attorney Helen Odom, 33, said she’s not concerned about the dispensary opening a block from her home.

“I’m in favor of medical marijuana from a policy matter,” she said. “Those dispensaries have to go somewhere.”

Lake View, Odom said, is home to tattoo parlors, smoke shops and stores that sell sex toys.

“We live in a very colorful part of Chicago with several different type of businesses that many people could consider problematic for various reasons and they [aren’t]. They just add to the color of our neighborhood and to the vibrancy of it and to what makes it a special place to live,” she said.

The East Lake View Neighbors association and the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce support the dispensary.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said Friday he had not yet decided what his stance will be on the dispensary.

Few aldermen have voiced their opinions on medical marijuana businesses seeking to open throughout the city.

So far, a city zoning board has awarded necessary special-use permits to nine dispensaries and one medical marijuana cultivation center. MedMar’s proposal will be heard before that board Dec. 19. Ultimately, the state makes the call and will grant up to 13 dispensary licenses in Chicago.

As for MedMar, in the statement it said, “We look forward to obtaining all the necessary approvals to provide this legal and effective medical treatment to qualified patients with painful and debilitating diseases, and we are grateful to the many residents of Lake View who are supportive of our efforts.”

Meanwhile, those in opposition are hosting a community gathering Sunday.

For Deepa Garg, who works in digital marketing and lives next door to what could be the dispensary, it’s not about medical marijuana itself.

The 33-year-old said, “The majority of us who are rallying against this are not against medical marijuana.

“I’m for it. I want this to work. I want it to be successful. It’s just the wrong location.”