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River North, Gold Coast, Near North Side

Smoke Begins To Clear In Race To Open Weed Dispensary In River North As 2 Companies Drop Out

Four companies were vying for one spot in River North. But two, including a company that wanted to open in the old English bar on LaSalle Street, have withdrawn.

The proposed site for a weed dispensary once held the bar English.
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RIVER NORTH — The four-way race to open a cannabis dispensary in River North just got cut in half.

On the eve of a zoning hearing about four potential sites for the dispensaries, two companies withdrew their applications.

Only one of the four had a chance to open in its chosen location because state law doesn’t allow dispensaries to be within 1,500 feet of each other.

But because River North is such a coveted spot, the four companies said they were willing to roll the dice on what could be costly construction in hopes of being the one selection for the license.

Instead, officials with PharmaCann and Greenhouse Group withdrew applications before Friday’s Zoning Board of Appeals hearing.

That leaves Cresco Labs and MOCA Modern Cannabis in the derby.

Cresco is looking to open at 436 N. Clark St.

MOCA Modern Cannabis has lined up 214-232 W. Ohio St.

RELATED: 4 Weed Dispensaries On An Expensive But Uncertain ‘Collision Course’ To Open In Prized River North

The four sites are just outside the Downtown “exclusion zone,” where dispensaries are prohibited. The prohibited area includes the Loop and the Magnificent Mile, making River North a coveted location to attract Downtown workers and tourists.

The neighborhood’s alderman, Brendan Reilly (42nd), said he told the four companies not to pile into the same area, as three would lose, but the companies pushed forward nonetheless.

Jeremy Unruh, co-founder and director of public and regulatory affairs at PharmaCann, had said he believed the race would work out itself out “organically.” On Thursday, he confirmed to Block Club that his company had withdrawn its application for 444 N. LaSalle St., which was once home to the bar English.

“We love the location, we love the neighborhood and we love the building. We were, however, mindful of the significant work needed to breathe life into the building, and were not confident we could beat our competitors to the finish line,” he said.

PharmaCann had been eyeing the landmarked LaSalle Street building. At a February 6 community meeting to talk about its plans, a PharmaCann official told Block Club the building’s landmarked status could cause construction delays which would slow the company as it competed with the other dispensaries to build out their pot shop.

Unruh did not specify where in the area they’ll look next. The company won two slots to open in the city’s Central District, which includes River North, but companies still must find a suitable location, get the city to approve it and then get a license from the state.

The other group to pull out of the River North sweepstakes was Greenhouse Group, which wanted to open at 612 N. Wells St. 

The company had also considered at least five other locations, including 60 W. Superior St., where a rival company, Cresco Labs had applied to open but also subsequently withdrew.

Greenhouse also looked at 116 W. Hubbard St, 423 W. Ontario St., 777 N. LaSalle St. and 100 E. Ontario St.

It’s not clear what Greenhouse’s next move it. Its representatives could not be immediately reached for comment.