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Strip Club Owner's Medical Marijuana Dispensary Was Top Pick Under Quinn

By Stephanie Lulay | January 30, 2015 6:12am | Updated on January 30, 2015 7:34am
 Records show that Perry Mandera's Fulton Street dispensary likely would have been approved if Gov. Pat Quinn had issued medical marijuana licenses before the end of the year as planned.
Records show that Perry Mandera's Fulton Street dispensary likely would have been approved if Gov. Pat Quinn had issued medical marijuana licenses before the end of the year as planned.
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DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay

WEST LOOP — A proposed West Loop medical marijuana dispensary owned by a Chicago strip club owner and trucking executive likely would have been approved if Gov. Pat Quinn would have acted on issuing licenses as planned.

Records show that businessman Perry Mandera's application to operate the dispensary in Fulton Market was one of two top-scoring proposals in the city's West Township district.

While Democrat Quinn, who has since left office, ultimately ended up punting the task to his successor, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, the documents offer an inside look at the state division's scoring system. And if Rauner ends up approving licenses based on those scores, Mandera could end up running a medical marijuana dispensary after all. 

Mandera, who owns VIP's, a Gentlemen's Club on the Near North Side, plans to open Custom Strains, a medical marijuana dispensary in a vacant building at 1105 W. Fulton St.

According to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation score sheet, Mandera's application was one of two high-scoring proposals in the city's West Township district out of 10 proposals submitted.

State rules call for two licenses to be awarded in each district, and a total of 13 in Chicago city limits.

But the spreadsheet also shows officials may have had reservations about awarding the license to Mandera. Next to the high score, under a column titled "issues," reads: "Hold. Perry Mandera."

Illinois Medical Marijuana Scoring Tally Sheet 1-20-15

Read the document

The other high-scoring proposal in the West Township district was submitted by Professional Pharmacy Management LLC, a group that aims to open a clinic at 1368 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park.

Professional Pharmacy Management is owned by pharmacist Barry Golin, owner of Barry's Drugs, and Daniel and Doug Marks, brothers who own Emporium Arcade Bar. Both the pharmacy and arcade bar neighbor the proposed dispensary site.

The high-scoring Fulton Market and Wicker Park proposals were highlighted in green on the state document, while others labeled out of consideration were highlighted in red.

A second West Loop proposal submitted by Green Thumb Industries-West Loop Medical's Ben Kovler was scored seventh out of the district's 10 proposals.

Kovler's team aimed to open a dispensary called The Clinic West Loop at 955 W. Lake St. The site currently houses a graphics company.

A spokesman for Kovler said the team has not been contacted by the Quinn or Rauner administrations regarding its license application.

The internal state documents were obtained by DNAinfo Chicago through a Freedom of Information Act request. 

Through spokeswoman Elizabeth Kosar, Mandera said he wants the state to have a fair selection process "in order to ensure the integrity and success of the program so that patients in Illinois will be able to access the compassionate care they need."

Quinn originally intended to award the dispensary licenses before Dec. 31. Although the administration missed that deadline, Quinn's camp was still working to announce the licenses on the eve of Rauner's inauguration, according to the Sun-Times. E-mails from Jan. 11, the night before Quinn left office, show that the former governor planned to announce the license recipients the next day.

Ultimately, that didn't happen, and Rauner will now make the call on dispensary licenses and the future of the state's medical marijuana program. The new governor said he is not ready to act on the issue yet.

A spokesman for Rauner said earlier this week that the governor's office "will conduct a thorough legal review of the process used by the Quinn administration and refer our findings to the Attorney General’s office. No licenses will be granted until this process is thoroughly reviewed."

In October, a handful of Fulton Market business owners said they were against Mandera's plan to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the neighborhood.

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