LOGAN SQUARE — A local weed company with a social equity mission wants to open its first farm and dispensary in an industrial building in west Logan Square.
Perception Farms is looking to take over an old marble manufacturing plant at 2537-43 N. Pulaski Road — the same site that was being considered for a music venue. Ald. Felix Cardona Jr. (31st) ultimately shot down that proposal after pushback from neighbors.
The weed company’s proposal calls for an indoor weed farm and a dispensary separated by glass.
“You’d be able to look through the glass and see what was happening on the other side, like a craft brewery,” Jaime Zaplatosch with Perception Farms said.
Zaplatosch, who handles community engagement for the weed company, said they’re ultimately looking to open both a farm and a dispensary in the building, but that they’re more focused on the farm component.
“The dispensary licenses are so much more competitive,” she said.
The project is a long way from reality. Perception Farms needs two separate state licenses to open both a farm and a dispensary. The weed company also needs a zoning change from the City Council and special use approvals for each function from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
If everything goes according to plan, the earliest construction could start is August or September, according to Zaplatosch.
Neighbors will get a chance to weigh in on the proposal at a community meeting set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Kelvyn Park, 4438 W. Wrightwood Ave.
Perception Farms is unique among local weed companies because it has a social equity mission, Zaplatosch said. The company is dedicated to hiring people who have either been charged with cannabis possession or live in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.
The company has already lined up more than 25 people to work at the facility. Zaplatosch said the facility would have a staff of about 60 and all of the employees would be owners, similar to a co-op grocery store.
“We really feel like this is a way to provide perpetual wealth and income into the communities that have been impacted by the war on cannabis. .. So it’s not just a few people getting all the benefits, but really spreading out that wealth,” she said.
Zaplatosch said her team was drawn to the west Logan Square warehouse for its “high-traffic” location and architectural style. She said the dispensary, if approved, would be open and airy so “it doesn’t feel like you’re going into a really restricted space that is doing elicit things.”
“Honestly, I think that’s what most of the dispensaries look like here in Chicago right now,” she said. “We’re thinking more about what Denver and California are doing. They’re welcoming spaces to be inside of and [it doesn’t] feel like you’re doing anything wrong.”
The group’s mission could also help it through the city approval process. City officials have been widely criticized for approving all white-owned dispensaries thus far, even though the Illinois cannabis law called for equity.
The weed company is looking to bring new life to a warehouse that has sat vacant for 11 years.
Earlier this winter, a trio of partners tried to open an 1,000-person-capacity music venue in the old warehouse, but the project was ultimately rejected by Cardona Jr. after neighbors pushed back.
The music venue, which required zoning approval from the alderman, became a flashpoint in the neighborhood’s debate over gentrification. A community meeting on the project drew more than 200 people.
Zaplatosch said her team is confident they’ll fare better than the music venue developers, especially because the alderman has streamlined his zoning process since then. The music venue developers now own the site and are listed as co-hosts for the community meeting.
It’s unclear if Cardona Jr. supports the new proposal or not. The alderman didn’t return a message seeking comment Monday.
“It sounds like the process was a little complicated and changed along the way,” Zaplatosch said of the music venue proposal.
Zaplatosch said an indoor weed farm and dispensary that hires locally and aims to lift up people who have been negatively impacted by the war on drugs would benefit the community.
She added that it wouldn’t draw a “huge influx of people all at one time” like the music venue would’ve.
“We’re a completely grassroots startup and really consider ourselves an incubator in the legal cannabis space,” Zaplatosch said. “From what I know, no one else has a model that we’re going for.”
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