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Alderman Angry Pot Clinics No Longer Required to Have 24/7 Armed Guards

By Heather Cherone | February 19, 2016 6:04am
 Medical marijuana clinics in Chicago are no longer required to have around-the-clock security.
Medical marijuana clinics in Chicago are no longer required to have around-the-clock security.
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Getty Images/File Photo

NORWOOD PARK — Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) said Thursday he was incensed by a decision to no longer require medical marijuana dispensaries be protected 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by armed guards.

Napolitano, who opposed the decision of the city's Zoning Board of Appeals to approve a marijuana dispensary in Norwood Park, said the nearly unanimous decision of the Chicago City Council earlier this month made his "blood boil."

Napolitano, who was elected to the council in 2015, said he was enraged by the change, which requires armed security only when the dispensary is open for business.

The measure, was authored by Ald. Ed Burke (14th), a close ally of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Burke told the Tribune the change was prompted by the need to reduce the cost of operating the dispensaries.

"I was floored," Napolitano said. "City officials sold an entire plan of operations to an entire community, and now they've totally changed it, with very little notice."

Napolitano voted against the change, as did Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), who backed a proposal to open a dispensary in Lakeview.

Officials with Union Group of Illinois are moving forward with plans to open a dispensary at 6428-30 N. Milwaukee Ave., near famed hot dog drive-thru Superdawg, despite Napolitano's opposition.

The firm has no plans to change its security plan that was presented to city officials as part of its application for a special-use permit, company spokesman Jay Vincent said.

Napolitano said the Union Group's security plan was the "only strong point" of its application.

The alderman said he was pleased to hear that armed guards would be on duty around the clock at the Norwood Park dispensary, which will also feature a state-of-the-art video surveillance system.

Opponents of the dispensary set to open near Devon, Nagle and Milwaukee avenues said it is a bad fit for a neighborhood and would make the already-congested intersection worse, attract criminals to the area and lower the value of their homes.

The alderman said he was concerned the business would be targeted by criminals looking to steal cash and marijuana from the dispensary, which would be open from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily.

Napolitano said the rule change was another instance of city officials failing to live up to promises made to residents of the 41st Ward on sensitive issues.

"This is why we are afraid to trust the city government on things like this," Napolitano said.

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