A large swath of area that includes trendy neighborhoods like Wicker Park, the West Loop and Pilsen has drawn the most interest from those seeking to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Chicago, according to data released by state officials Thursday.
In Chicago, the state used township boundaries to make sure the proposed sites for dispensaries are spread out, not clustered.
Ten groups seek to open dispensaries in West Township, bounded by North Avenue, Austin Boulevard and the Chicago River’s north and south branches.
Among the applicants in West Township is Ben Kovler and his group Green Thumb Industries, which is seeking to open a dispensary at Lake and Morgan called The Clinic West Loop.
The rush to open in this part of the city means “there’s certainly need in the community and there’s some openness,” said Kovler, whose group also seeks to open two suburban dispensaries, one each in Lake County and in Chicago Heights. They also want to open four cultivation centers around the state, he said.
Only two dispensaries will be allowed to open in West Township, according to state rules. In all, the city will be allowed to have 13 dispensaries. The state will allow up to 60 dispensaries to open statewide.
Further north in Chicago, six groups are vying to open in Jefferson Township, but only two dispensaries will be allowed.
Ald. John Arena (45th) said the restrictions on properties, including how close dispensaries can be to a school, are driving people to Jefferson Township, which includes his ward.
He’s looking forward to discussing the applications, which are required by the city to obtain special-use permits. That triggers a public hearing before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, where area residents can object, identify the owners and scrutinize their backgrounds.
“We’ll see where my community comes out on this,” Arena said.
The first crop of marijuana entrepreneurs will stand before the Zoning Board of Appeals Oct. 17.
Kovler’s group and three others are listed to be considered.
The other three, according to the agenda, are:
- A Wicker Park dispensary in the 1300 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, operated by the Golin Family Trust.
- A Brighton Park dispensary in the 4500 block of South Archer Avenue, operated by Maribis of Chicago. It would be located in powerful Ald. Ed Burke’s 14th ward.
- An Avondale dispensary in the 3500 block of North Elston Avenue, which would be operated by Kind Care.
In the suburbs, DuPage County had the highest number of applicants for those seeking to open dispensaries. Even though 23 groups have applied, only three will be granted, according to the state.
Dan Cronin, the DuPage County chairman, said the interest in the county is “remarkable.”
“I think its still indicative that DuPage County is a desirable place to do business,” he said.
But he’s not without his concerns.
“This is a unique and qualitatively different type of business enterprise and it requires a lot more scrutiny and it requires a demand for the utmost safety and security,” he said.
Besides the 214 who seek to open dispensaries throughout the state, 159 seek to open cultivation centers. The state will allow up to 22 cultivation centers — one per police district.
In Cook County, which includes the city and suburbs, nine groups seek to grow medical marijuana.