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Lakeview Pot Dispensary Approved Despite Challenge From Catholic Charities

By Ted Cox | December 19, 2015 10:23am | Updated on December 21, 2015 8:32am
 Catholic Charities attorney Todd Ohlms (l.) challenges MedMar head John Sulllivan and attorney Katriina McGuire (r.) during Friday's hearing.
Catholic Charities attorney Todd Ohlms (l.) challenges MedMar head John Sulllivan and attorney Katriina McGuire (r.) during Friday's hearing.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — A proposed Lakeview medical-marijuana dispensary faced stiff resistance Friday from Catholic Charities due to its location near a battered women's shelter, but ultimately won approval.

Todd Ohlms, lawyer for Catholic Charities, charged that the proposed location was within 1,000 feet of a day care center at House of Good Shepherd, which he said served an "extremely vulnerable" group of up to 40 abused women and their children.

Yet the state has already licensed a MedMar dispensary at that site, 3812 N. Clark St., and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) argued that the house's "primary use" was as a residential shelter, not a day care center.

"If it's an unlicensed day care, it's not a day care," testified MedMar head John Sullivan, who persistently called Good Shepherd a "shelter."

Ohlms, however, countered that the state statute for medical marijuana made no distinction between licensed and unlicensed day care.

Regardless, board Chairman Jonathan Swain found the argument all but moot. "That's an issue for the state. It's not an issue for the board," Swain said. "Let's cut to the quick. Whether it's a day care or not is a matter for the state," and the state, he added, had already ruled on it.

"It is not a day care as the state defined it," he said.

The special-use permit for the dispensary was approved by a 4-1 vote, with only Commissioner Sol Flores voting against.

Good Shepherd has served in its role since 1859, according to Ohlms, but ownership was only transferred to Catholic Charities in July. He insisted that the organization took no position for or against medical marijuana, adding, "This is simply the wrong location."

Catholic Charities and its supporters dominated the two-and-a-half-hour hearing, with Lillian Cartwright, of the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women's Network, at one point suggesting security cameras, feeding video to the Chicago Police Department, could be used by officers to "stalk" missing wives and lovers, as she said police are four times more likely to be abusive than the general populace.

Yet Michelle Wetzel, of the Howard Brown Health Center, countered with a brief statement that the nearby clinic on Sheridan Road has 30,000 patients, about half of them suffering from HIV and eligible for medical marijuana.

"Our patients would vastly benefit from this dispensary," Wetzel said, calling it an "enormous benefit" to those patients.

At one point, Ohlms even brought in the Twelve Bars of Christmas (TBOX) bar crawl as indicating the area was not conducive to a dispensary, saying, "This has become an entertainment district under the leadership of Ald. Tunney."

"I just feel it's fair to allow this," Tunney responded on the dispensary. "I'm in support of it," he added. "I believe it has the support of the majority of residents in my ward."

The board agreed, although stipulating that the dispensary must try to obtain a loading zone in front, must have valet parking and must keep an extra security guard in the vestibule.

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