By Shirin Ali
Community groups hit NuMed Chicago with fierce opposition to its recreational marijuana dispensary proposal for Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. The proposed dispensary would open at 935 W. Randolph St., on the same block as the city’s longest standing addiction treatment facility, Haymarket Center.
“Having a dispensary located next door to Chicago’s largest treatment center provides an opportunity for clients who are seeking lifesaving treatment to be triggered by its proximity to a treatment center,” said. Dan Lustig, president and CEO of Haymarket Center.
Lustig spoke up during an open forum after NuMed presented its proposal during the West Loop Community Organization’s meeting on February 5 at Catalyst Ranch in West Loop.
“There is nothing that can be said that will reduce the triggering effect of this establishment being located next door,” Lustig said.
NuMed has been a licensed medical dispensary operator for the past four years, with locations in Chicago, Peoria and Urbana, and is now looking to open its first recreational marijuana facility. Under Illinois state law, medical dispensary owners are given first preference in extending their businesses to include recreational dispensaries by entering in a citywide lottery. NuMed was selected during the city’s November 15 lottery and awarded a permit in the city’s West District.
The dispensary would be located on the second floor of an existing commercial building. Dispensary customers would enter the building on Sangamon Street and exit on Randolph Street.
Haymarket Center has been located at 125 N. Sangamon St. for the last 45 years, which places the treatment facility next door to NuMed’s proposed dispensary. Under Illinois state law, dispensaries are permitted to open near a treatment center such as Haymarket. The law only stipulates a proximity restriction for school grounds, playgrounds or public libraries.
Chicago resident Trinka Payne expressed frustration at Wednesday night’s meeting with the way the state framed its recreational marijuana law.
“I’m dumbfounded as to why they didn’t include this in the bill. They have schools covered, churches covered, daycare centers covered but not rehab facilities. Those are the loopholes which certain people find so they can profit off of and get into the communities.”
Others in the attendance did not realize there was a gray area for treatment facilities, including South Side resident Yvette Mcwhorter.
“I thought they brought up some really good points. The Haymarket piece, I hadn’t even thought of. I think that’s something that should have been addressed when they were writing the act,” Mcwhorter said.
Lustig attempted to appeal to the city and residents’ logic, by explaining the typical process patients in treatment facilities go through.
“Addiction is a chronic relapsing condition that can span decades before an individual can reach a period of recovery, specifically it can take six to seven different treatment episodes before an individual moves into recovery,” Lustig said.
Voters in any city precinct with a population of 500,000 or greater can petition their alderman to seek an ordinance that would make their precinct a “restricted cannabis zone.” This would prohibit dispensaries and/or home cultivation sites from opening up.
“We hope Chicago will come to see that the provision of high-quality behavior healthcare is important enough to require a cannabis dispensary to locate far beyond the perimeter of treatment facilities,” Lustig said.
NuMed is one of many recreational dispensaries vying to open around the city and state. But the final decision will lie with Chicago’s Zoning Board of Appeals if NuMed will receive a special-use permit. The zoning board does take into account local alderman’s opinion and frequently asks applicants if they have letters of support from the neighborhood they’re applying to operate in.