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Medical Marijuana Clinic Proposed Near Superdawg Draws Fire

 City officials are scheduled to decide whether to allow the dispensary to open May 28.
Medical Marijuana Dispensary Proposed Near Superdawg
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NORWOOD PARK — A proposal to open a medical marijuana dispensary near Superdawg ignited a blaze of controversy at a community meeting Tuesday night.

Union Group of Illinois wants to open a dispensary in a vacant storefront at 6428-30 N. Milwaukee Ave. The firm was one of two groups to win a state license to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in Jefferson Township, which includes most of the Far Northwest Side.

A majority of the standing-room-only crowd at the Roden branch of the Chicago Public Library in Norwood Park cheered those who objected to the plan to transform the vacant storefront into a dispensary, and many shouted down those who praised the proposed dispensary as a way for the seriously ill to get access to life-changing medicine.

John Davis, one of three partners in Union Group of Illinois, said the dispensary would be a "good neighbor and a revenue generator" if approved by city officials. The dispensary would be run by Maria Kunz, who owns a home healthcare business in Skokie.

The dispensary would employ 10 people, and Union Group said it would donate 4 percent of its profits to "local charities and civic groups." The dispensary is expected to bring in $1.6 million in profit in its first year, which would mean $64,000 for local groups, company officials said.

Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), who took office Monday, said he would not want to raise his three children near a medical marijuana dispensary, and encouraged opponents of the proposal to attend the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting set for 2 p.m. May 28 in Room 200 of City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St.

Staff from the alderman's office planned to go door-to-door asking residents who live closest to the proposed dispensary about their position and conduct a 5,000-person telephone poll in the coming days, before Napolitano makes a recommendation to city officials, said Chris Vittorio, Napolitano's chief of staff.

While the zoning board frequently follows the recommendation of aldermen when deciding whether to approve or reject projects in their ward, it does not always do so.

Davis, the executive director of the Coalition for Cannabis Standards and Ethics and the CEO of the Northwest Patient Resource Center, said he would use his experience in operating dispensaries in Seattle to ensure that the dispensary is a model for others set to open across Illinois during the coming months.

If approved, the dispensary would operate from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. every day, and be patrolled around the clock by armed guards using a state-of-the-art camera system, officials said.

In addition to adding 21 parking spaces, Union Group plans to build a secure garage to allow marijuana to be delivered to the facility and cash removed. Otherwise, the 21,500-square-foot building would remain unchanged, officials said.

Drawings presented by Union Group officials depicted pharmacists dispensing medicine in pre-packaged parcels from behind Plexiglas windows.

Only members of the dispensary allowed by the state to use medical marijuana for a host of illnesses such as cancer and glaucoma would be allowed inside the facility after showing two forms of identification, officials said.

"There will be no flashy signage," Davis said. "This will be a boring building where people can get their medicine."

Davis and other representatives of the firm dismissed concerns medical marijuana patients would head across Milwaukee Avenue to the Caldwell Woods Forest Preserve to use their medicine, saying that would be a violation of the state law and could result in that patient's removal from the program.

"If someone is a problem, they are done," Davis said.

The proposed dispensary would be 2.6 miles from the other medical marijuana dispensary on the Far Northwest Side near Lawrence and Milwaukee avenues. Curative Health has the approval of both the state of city to open a dispensary at 4758 N. Milwaukee Ave., but has yet to open.

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