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Facing opposition from neighbors, Zoning Board rejects proposed pot shop near Gold Coast during 12-hour meeting

“This issue isn’t about marijuana. It is about the significant negative impact that the pot dispensary would’ve had on our community,” said Matthew Newberger, a member of a community group that opposed the dispensary.

The Zoning Board of Appeals shot down PharmaCann’s proposal to open a weed dispensary at 12-14 W. Maple.

Chicago’s Zoning Board of Appeals rejected a pot firm’s plan to open a recreational cannabis store just outside the Gold Coast following a nearly 12-hour meeting that started Friday and stretched into the early morning hours Saturday.

PharmaCann’s plan to open a Verilife dispensary at 12-14 W. Maple St. faced stiff opposition from local Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) and a coalition of neighbors and businesses who claimed the dispensary would have been out of character for the neighborhood, which boasts one of the city’s premier retail and nightlife districts.

The grassroots organization, dubbed Stop Pot at 12-14 W Maple, lauded the Zoning Board for making “the right decision” following the lengthy meeting, which included testimony from more than 50 community members and business owners.

“This issue isn’t about marijuana. It is about the significant negative impact that the pot dispensary would’ve had on our community,” said Matthew Newberger, a member of the group who also serves as president of the Mariano Park Advisory Board.

PharmaCann spokesman Jeremy Unruh called the Zoning Board’s decision “disappointing” but said “the pause will give us an opportunity to reweigh some of the neighborhood issues raised by those who objected to our proposal.”

“In the meantime, we have other locations that we will continue to move through the zoning process,” Unruh said.

The proposed Verilife store is the first dispensary location to be shot down by the Zoning Board, which previously approved five recreational pot shops during another whirlwind meeting in March.

Those companies were all cleared to open in locations on the Near North and Near West sides that are close to the exclusion zone that covers a large swath of the Central Business District where legal weed sales are prohibited. Two stores have already opened in River North and another has started selling weed in Goose Island.

The operators of the state’s existing medical cannabis dispensaries were given first crack at selling recreational weed when the drug was fully legalized at the start of this year.

But starting next month, state officials will begin doling out 75 new licenses that have long been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. Those new permits will be prioritized for the so-called social equity applicants the law was written to benefit in an effort to bolster minority ownership in the overwhelmingly white industry.