WICKER PARK — With a card swipe and a biometric thumbprint test required before you even get to the secured doors, a proposed Wicker Park medical marijuana dispensary would offer "'Ocean's Eleven'-style security, its owners said.
The group's security plan, crafted by a retired Chicago Police detective — as well as details on how the proposed dispensary would operate — took the spotlight at a sparsely attended community meeting on Saturday morning.
"This [meeting] might be a little premature. We might not get the license," said Daniel Marks, one of three owners of Modern Medicine Dispensary, which is seeking a permit from the city to open a dispensary at 1368 N. Milwaukee in Wicker Park.
Alisa Hauser says the Wicker Park location is one of over 200-plus applicants across the state:
Daniel Marks and his brother Douglas Marks, who own Emporium Arcade Bar, are teaming up with their landlord, Barry Golin, a second-generation pharmacist, to try to bring a dispensary to a storefront between both of their existing businesses.
Modern Medicine Dispensary's special-use permit application is scheduled to be considered by members of the city's Zoning Board of Appeals on Oct. 17.
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) has previously said he supports the group's permit request.
Before the end of the year, the state is expected to notify dispensary applicants whose licenses have been approved. Some 200 applications have been filed.
If Modern Medicine Dispensary gets a license, it could be dispensing medical marijuana in May or June out of the Milwaukee Avenue dispensary, which would employ around 15 people.
In addition to Wicker Park, the group has also submitted applications to open dispensaries in Aurora, Norridge and Justice.
Al four dispensaries would be staffed by licensed pharmacists and have two security guards onsite, said Barry Golin, a pharmacist and owner of Barry's Drugs, which has been at 1370 N. Milwaukee Ave since the 1940s.
The only neighbor at the meeting, Jeffrey Malk, who owns a building within a few hundred feet of the proposed dispensary, said, "My biggest concern is crime. This is a cash business."
While medical marijuana businesses in Illinois don't accept credit or debit card payments, Golin said he hopes dispensaries can eventually accept debit and credit cards from major banks.
To alleviate concerns over cash deposits, the dispensary would also accept checks from patients, Golin said.
A maximum dosage of 2.5-ounces of marijuana for a two-week supply could cost $500 per ounce [or $1,250 for the full dosage] and would not be covered by health insurance plans, Daniel Marks said.
"Pricing is hard to tell; it will be based on cultivation [centers], but we will do everything we can to make it as affordable as possible," said Daniel Marks.
Marijuana would be grown at 21 cultivation centers, also selected by the state.
Golin, who is serving as the chief executive officer of the dispensary venture, said the group would offer "significantly reduced prices" for registered patients who are veterans and others who can demonstrate financial hardship.
On Sept. 1, the state began to accept applications for patients seeking medical marijuana, and for those aiming to operate cultivation centers and dispensaries as part of a Medical Cannabis Pilot Program.
As part of a four-year pilot program that will end in 2018, the state will only grant 60 dispensary licenses, 13 of which can be in the city of Chicago.
Once a patient receives a medical marijuana card, he or she will have to select one dispensary that they will go to for marijuana.
Clinics like Good Intentions, 1723 N. Ashland Ave. have been popping up to help patients navigate the application process to see of they can get a card. But those clinics cannot dispense marijuana on-site.
Michael Chasen, a former deputy chief of detectives for the Chicago Police Department, is serving as Modern Medicine Dispensary's chief security officer. He said nobody would be allowed to enter the building without first swiping a state-issued medical marijuana ID card and passing a thumbprint test.
Caregivers who are picking up a prescription for a patient will undergo the same security treatment.
The dispensary would also provide a 24-hour live video feed to State Police and give its delivery schedule to state and local police, Chasen said.
The dispensary would be open from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily and offer valet parking for those who don't want to park on the street.
An inner vestibule would be built so patients do not have to stand outside waiting to get inside, Daniel Marks said.
The need for medical marijuana was also brought up at the gathering.
"Prescription painkiller deaths are down 23 percent in states that have medical marijuana. There are a lot of benefits to it," said Golin, who added that he knows people who are seriously ill and going to Michigan, where medical marijuana has been legal since 2008.
"It should have been legal here 20 or 30 years ago," Golin said.
After the meeting, Beth Sholtis, interim executive director of the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce, said that she thought the meeting was "a great opportunity."
"There is always more to learn. I was concerned about security, and they answered all of those questions," Sholtis said.
Malk described the Markses as "very solid," though he added, "I want to make sure [a dispensary] would not devalue the neighborhood."
Before the Oct. 17 zoning board meeting, the six members of the dispensary's management team are scheduled to meet with the members of the chamber and a local community group.
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