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No Marijuana Dispensaries Coming Downtown

By David Matthews | February 3, 2015 4:15pm
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Marijuana cigarette
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STREETERVILLE — Marijuana won't be for sale — at least legally — in Chicago's business center. 

Of the 52 medical marijuana licenses Gov. Bruce Rauner announced statewide Monday, none were awarded to dispensaries looking to open shop in Downtown Chicago. 

RELATED STORY: Who's In, Out in Medical Marijuana Business

Rauner's announcement was the latest step in a delayed statewide effort to grow and sell medical marijuana to qualified patients. At least 6,300 Illinoisans have applied to use medical marijuana since the state began accepting applications in September. Former Gov. Pat Quinn in August 2013 signed the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program into law, which took effect last year. 

Dave Matthews explains why some residents are upset:

Though dispensaries were approved in townships stretching from Lake County to the Kentucky border, it's "somewhat" disappointing none will open in the cultural and commercial heart of Illinois, said Dan Linn, executive director of Springfield-based medical marijuana advocacy group Illinois NORML. Downtown Chicago not only hosts workers commuting from all over the city and suburbs, but is also home to many hospitals and other medical facilities that would prescribe medical marijuana, he said.

"The Loop is the epicenter of all things business-related in Chicago, but somehow this new industry and business didn't find its way into this part of the city," Linn said. "It could be optics. (State officials) don't want to see this on Michigan Avenue."

A Rauner spokesman deferred questions to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), which awarded the medical marijuana licenses. An IDFPR spokesman declined to comment. 

Other forces, such as the rents Downtown landlords ask of tenants, could also have been a factor, Linn said. 

Indeed, just one group even publicly applied to open a Downtown dispensary: Om of Medicine, an Ann Arbor, Mich. company that sought to run a store near the flagship Ronald McDonald House at 211 E. Grand Ave. in Streeterville. An Om representative confirmed Tuesday that the dispensary did not receive an Illinois license. A Ronald McDonald House spokesman did not immediately have a comment.

A large swath of land with a population larger than most American cities, Downtown Chicago covers the Loop, River North, Gold Coast, Streeterville and South Loop. The only dispensary near Downtown even being considered is Custom Strains, which VIP's Gentlemen's Club Owner Perry Mandera wants to open at 1105 W. Fulton St. 

Despite Rauner's announcement, Linn and others expect it will be several months before the dispensaries open for business. One reason: All marijuana sold in an Illinois dispensary must be grown in the state. 

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