NEAR WEST SIDE — As his City Council colleagues consider medical marijuana dispensaries in wards around the city, Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. said a place for patients to get legal pot could be an asset to his 27th Ward.
Burnett said Wednesday a dispensary could drive economic development in his ward, which includes part of the Near North Side and West Side.
"If the 1st, 33rd — Wicker Park, way up north — these 'yuppie wards' (land a medical marijuana dispensary) then why shouldn't the best ward — our ward — have the opportunity to be a competitive and accessible [option] for those who may have the need for it?" Burnett said.
Stephanie Lulay says this is the first time Burnett Jr. has discussed the issue at length:
A proposal for a dispensary on Lake Street in Burnett's ward earned a special-use permit Friday before the city's Zoning Board of Appeals. Burnett's stance on the dispensary at 955 W. Lake St. was a neutral one at the meeting. Green Thumb Industries co-founder Ben Kovler, an investor, wants to open The Clinic West Loop at the site.
On Wednesday, Burnett called the Lake Street dispensary proposal "safe, professional" and "very impressive." The group has produced "a whole bunch" of letters of support, too, he said.
This is the first time Burnett has discussed the two proposed medical marijuana sites in his ward, the Lake Street dispensary and a facility at 1105 W. Fulton St., at length.
Now that the Lake Street dispensary has cleared city zoning, owners are waiting for the state to approve or deny their application to operate it. Kovler said he expected to hear back from the state in November or December.
The state plans to grant 60 dispensary licenses, 13 of which will be located in Chicago.
If all goes well, a West Loop dispensary could open by the spring, Kovler said.
Fulton Street dispensary
Meanwhile, the 27th Ward office has fielded a half-dozen calls from residents who oppose a second proposed dispensary in the ward, one being pitched by trucking executive and strip club owner Perry Mandera.
Mandera wants to open a dispensary in a vacant building at 1105 W. Fulton St. If approved, the business would be called Custom Strains.
Some Fulton Market business owners, including Seth Hanau, who co-owns Cemitas Puebla Fulton Market, have previously said the dispensary was "not the right fit" for the neighborhood.
Burnett, who has known Mandera for decades, said that he's not sure a medical marijuana dispensary is "the right fit" for Mandera.
"Personally, I don't know if what he's trying to do is the right fit for him. Me? I wouldn't do it," Burnett said.
Burnett said he didn't know why any business owner "would want to get that much bad press" or "deal with all of that drama."
"That's just my thought," Burnett said. "Several people in the community aren't in support of it."
According to his attorney Brendan Shiller, Mandera has solicited 700 signatures of support for the Fulton Street dispensary.
Burnett noted Wednesday that anyone who was trying to open a dispensary in the city, "they all have heavy connections and know a lot of people."
"I am being lobbied by everybody," Burnett said. "Some people in the neighborhood said they'd rather have the Lake Street (dispensary) than the other guy, but I think they should both have a chance to be competitive."
Both dispensary owners are slated to meet with Neighbors of the West Loop at 7 p.m. Nov. 5 in the meeting room at 1000 W. Washington St., according to Bob Aiken, the group's vice president.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will consider the Custom Strains dispensary's special-use permit on Nov. 21.
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