LOGAN SQUARE — A group with aims to open the city's first medical marijuana dispensary has started construction on the shop.
The upcoming dispensary, Modern Cannabis, started work this week at 2847 W. Fullerton Ave., next to Emporium, a popular barcade.
"We hope to be the first, the biggest and most professional," said Barry Golin, a co-owner of the dispensary who also owns the Wicker Park pharmacy Barry's Drugs.
Modern Cannabis received its building permit Tuesday and began construction almost immediately.
Paul Biasco says security is a top concern for the owners:
The partners in the business include Golin, Emporium's co-owners Danny and Doug Marks, and Michael Chasen, a retired deputy detective for the Chicago Police Department.
"To be first there's a million headaches you aren't going to have if you wait until the thing matures, but it's kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Danny Marks.
The group hopes to open the dispensary before Thanksgiving.
Construction is expected to take between eight and 10 weeks, and after that there will be an extensive inspection process by the city and state.
Modern Cannabis’s move from Wicker Park to Logan Square was approved by the city’s zoning board of appeals in late May. The board unanimously approved the businesses’ application for a special-use permit.
One of the biggest factors in the buildout is security, according to the owners.
"The last thing we would want is some situation where someone could force their way in," Danny Marks said. "All of our security stuff is going to be over the top, state of the art."
Those precautions include bulletproof doors, a steel garage bay for armored trucks to park inside the building and about 30 security cameras.
The full space is about 6,500 square feet, but Modern Cannabis is only building out half for the dispensary while the industry remains in its infancy.
The Modern Cannabis (from l.) team Michael Chasen, Barry Golin, Daniel Marks, Douglas Marks and Matthew Engel. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
The biggest question is how many patients will be licensed by the time Modern Cannabis readies to open.
According to most recent numbers from the Illinois Department of Public Health, about 23,700 citizens have started the patient registry process, 3,500 of those people have fully applied for cards and the department has issued 2,800 approval letters.
The state has approved 10 applications for persons under 18 years old.
Marks said there may be a lack of patients in the short term, but he is in it for the long haul.
"I think once people see it open and stores start to open and product is available, people will become more aware," he said.
Patients who apply for medical cannabis cards must provide written certification from their physician with proof the patient has one of the authorized debilitating medical conditions as well as a fingerprint consent form.
There is also a $100 nonrefundable fee.
Once medical marijuana becomes more mainstream or even goes fully recreational, the owners say they could expand their business to take up the entire space.
"Hopefully, eventually, this thing is one huge dispensary," Marks said. "That's the long term goal."
Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration licensed 52 dispensaries in February. Chicago is slated to get 13 dispensary licenses.
Modern Cannabis was originally approved to open in Wicker Park inside the side game room of Emporium's location at 1368 N. Milwaukee Ave. This spring, Modern Cannabis began the process to transfer its operation to Logan Square. The new location was billed as being more secure, discreet and less family-oriented than the Wicker Park spot.
"We chose our location because we know our community," Marks said. "We know our alderman."
Marks said the city has been "refreshingly efficient" with the permit process and has helped the business navigate the new business territory.
The dispensary has been supported by Ald. Joe Moreno (1st). Moreno told DNAinfo that Modern Cannabis was the only proposal he was supporting during the application process in September.
Golin, a second generation pharmacist, said he was excited to get involved with the cannabis industry. He and the co-owners plan to host regular community meetings and seminars about medicinal cannabis leading up to the opening.
The first of such will be held at 11 a.m. on Aug. 29 at Emporium's Logan Square location.
"It's a new adventure for all of us," Golin said.
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