Chicago’s independent pot shops going up in smoke as New York cannabis giant moves to acquire Midway Dispensary

The pending deal would give AWH eight retail marijuana licenses in Illinois, including Midway’s permits for its flagship location in Vittum Park and a secondary site that hasn’t been determined.

SHARE Chicago’s independent pot shops going up in smoke as New York cannabis giant moves to acquire Midway Dispensary

Hundreds of people waiting in line to get into Midway Dispensary on Jan. 1.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

This story has been updated.

A major New York-based cannabis firm announced plans Tuesday to acquire one of Chicago’s only independent dispensaries and an outstanding pot shop license owed to the current operators.

AWH, which has operations to grow and sell weed across five states, detailed the pending takeover of Midway Dispensary in Vittum Park just three days before the shop’s owners were expected to petition the Zoning Board of Appeals to open their second location in the South Loop.

However, Midway on Tuesday abruptly withdrew its application to start selling weed at 1420 S. Michigan Ave. amid news of the acquisition and stiff opposition from both community members and local Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd). The neighbors most notably complained that the proposed location was just outside a city-mandated buffer zone from Old St. Mary’s School, a Catholic elementary school.

Like the state’s other medical cannabis dispensaries, Midway was allowed to start selling recreational weed at its current store, 5648 S. Archer Ave., and open a second adult-use dispensary when pot was fully legalized at the start of the year.

The acquisition of Midway’s licenses would give AWH eight retail marijuana permits in Illinois.

“We are excited to continue to expand in Chicago and fortunate to be able to partner with one of the original operators in the state that serves the southwest Chicago market,” AWH’s founder and chief executive Abner Kurtin said in a statement.

The announcement comes roughly four months after AWH announced the acquisition of MOCA Modern Cannabis, another independent pot company that built out dispensaries in Logan Square and River North.

As consolidation limits the number of players in the growing cannabis industry, AWH’s acquisition streak signals the potential fate of Illinois’ independently owned dispensaries.

Of the 17 licensed dispensaries in Chicago, there are just a few that aren’t either owned by or partnered with a multi-state pot firm or a company that also grows weed. Those include the Herbal Care Center on the Near West Side, which is run by former VIP’s strip club owner Perry Mandera, and the two Dispensary 33 locations in Uptown and the West Loop.

Though currently independent, GreenGate Chicago in Rogers Park had a deal in place to be acquired by Verano Holdings. However, GreenGate CEO Bob Kingsley said the buyout has been “put on hold” by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, the state agency that oversees dispensaries.

The owner of Dispensary 33, Bryan Zises, said he has no plans to sell out — though big industry players have come knocking.

“We are a family-owned business and we’re not going anywhere,” Zises said.

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