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Ald. Burnett says no to pot company’s plan to set up shop next to West Loop rehab center

Dr. Dan Lustig, The Haymarket Center’s president and CEO, said the sale of legal weed in the area will inevitably “be a trigger for a lot of patients who are seeking life-saving care.”

NuMed is looking to open a recreational weed dispensary in a building (foreground) at the corner of Randolph and Sangamon that is steps from an entrance to The Haymarket Center drug treatment facility.
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Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) pushed back Tuesday on a pot firm’s plan to open a recreational weed store next to the city’s largest drug treatment facility.

Burnett, a former alcoholic, said the location proposed by Wheaton-based NuMed is simply “too close” to The Haymarket Center at 932 W. Washington.

“NuMed is right next to them,” Burnett said. “To me, that makes a difference.”

Dr. Dan Lustig, Haymarket’s president and CEO, said the sale of legal weed in the area will inevitably “be a trigger for a lot of patients who are seeking life-saving care,” some of whom have issues with marijuana.

NuMed is looking to open a new store at 935 W. Randolph, just steps from an entrance to Haymarket at 124 N. Sangamon. Meanwhile, Nature’s Care and Windy City Cannabis are both looking to set up shop a block east of there.

Both NuMed and Nature’s Care have held community meetings ahead of a special pot-centric meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals on March 6. Windy City hasn’t held a meeting and won’t take part in the crowded hearing, during which the ZBA will rule on whether seven total firms will receive the necessary special-use zoning approval to open.

Because state law requires at least 1,500 feet between stores, only one company will ultimately earn a dispensary license after first passing an inspection. That’s one more dispensary than Lustig wants to see open in the area.

“Ideally, I would like to have a perimeter of three city blocks that surround Haymarket. But I think it’s going to be very challenging,” said Lustig.

Asked if the litany of bars in the area that serve alcohol are also a concern, Lustig said: “I’ve always had concerns, but you can’t smell alcohol” like you can smell marijuana smoke.

But Burnett said because of the availability of booze, the other proposed pot shop locations aren’t as much of a concern to him as NuMed. The Fulton Market Association, a nonprofit focused on economic development in the area, is collecting signatures for a petition against NuMed that it plans to send to city officials Friday morning.

“We support that [patients] shouldn’t be faced with a marijuana shop right in their face and perhaps be enticed into a relapse,” said the group’s executive director Roger Romanelli.

Representatives for NuMed, Nature’s Care and Windy City Cannabis didn’t respond to requests for comment. But Pam Althoff, executive director of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois, said the three firms have proven themselves as “good neighbors” in other communities across the state.

Althoff said the city’s new zoning rules — mostly the mayor’s downtown exclusion zone — created “a different level of complexity” for companies seeking prime real estate.

“Those industry players that want to provide access within the city of Chicago corporate limits are truly limited in finding buildings that meet the zoning criteria,” she added.