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7 Weed Dispensaries And Farms Are On Ice For Now Amid Stay At Home Order

Weed businesses in need of a zoning change have been delayed as aldermen say it's been difficult to gather feedback because of coronavirus restrictions.

A Dispensary 33 employee during the first week of legal weed in Illinois.
Dispensary 33/Facebook

CHICAGO — Companies hoping to open a new round of weed dispensaries and farms in Chicago are going to have to wait a bit longer.

City Council’s Committee on Zoning was set to consider a slew of weed proposals Tuesday for the first time since March. But at least seven of the eight proposals have been postponed by aldermen for now.

The local aldermen said it’s been difficult to gather community input during the state’s stay at home order. They also cited the Zoning Board of Appeals decision to indefinitely suspend the consideration of cannabis special-use permits, a required step for all weed businesses.

The proposals being deferred include a craft weed farm planned for 4614 S. Marshfield Ave. in the 15th Ward on the South Side. Ald. Raymond Lopez said the applicants ignored his community’s zoning process.

“They applied over the request of the local committee,” Lopez said. “We have a local process for zoning which they came to, but did willfully chose to ignore, believing the alderman was powerless to stop” the proposal.

Owner Mark Reyes and his three siblings would operate the would-be family business. Reyes said he was unaware the application was on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting until he was contacted by a Block Club reporter. He said Lopez’s move to delay the request stems from a misunderstanding the two had over the zoning process in Lopez’s ward.

Reyes attended a meeting of the 15th Ward’s local zoning advisory committee Feb. 3 to present his plans, but the committee “tabled” the matter to allow time for the community to establish guidelines for weed businesses in the ward. Weed went legal in Illinois Jan. 1.

Lopez and Reyes disagree about what happened next.

Lopez said Reyes had “an outburst,” telling the committee he did not need the committee or aldermanic approval to receive the zoning change at City Hall.

Reyes said he explained to the committee he needed a zoning change and a special-use permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals. He would still have to hold a community meeting before pursuing the special-use permit, so the only reason he was there at the time was because his location was not zoned properly.

Reyes said Lopez took that assertion out of context. Lopez said the local zoning committee hasn’t met since the state’s stay at home order went into effect.

Reyes “did not have the luxury of working with an attorney” on his zoning application, but he attended the city’s cannabis resource fair and split duties with his siblings to navigate the “daunting and overwhelming” process.

“It’s just very difficult with the finances and trying to have all our ducks in a row, and, you know, it’s getting the alderman involved. The property has to be properly zoned and then you have the application process,” he said. “But I’m not looking to stop, whether it’s at this property or another property.”

Lopez said he wouldn’t make “special allowances” for anyone, and Reyes was unfortunate to get “caught in the middle of a pandemic situation.”

“Too often, politics and other considerations influence what we do and have been accused of such time and again,” he said. “The process we have in place in the 15th Ward completely removes any kind of preferential treatment.”

Aldermen also delayed applications for weed-related zoning changes in the 2nd, 22nd, 32nd and 47th wards.

In Andersonville, Dispensary 33 has applied to expand its current pot shop at 5001 N. Clark St. Ald. Matt Martin (47th) deferred the matter until the company can meet with the ward’s local zoning advisory board, said spokesman Josh Mark.

Dispensary 33 also had two requests for a new West Loop dispensary, but it dropped one application after it signed a lease at 1152 W. Randolph St. The company held a meeting Monday evening to discuss the zoning change with neighbors. Ald Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) wouldn’t say if the zoning change would come up for a vote Tuesday.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) is deferring two items in his ward until there is more clarity on when the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals will start hearing applications for weed-related special-use permits again.

Farzin Parang, Zoning Board of Appeals chairman, said during a virtual meeting of the board Friday that cannabis applications will be delayed until in-person meetings resume or until he feels the virtual setup can accommodate the requests.

Neighborhood leaders of the Wicker Park Committee rejected a plan from Verano Holdings for a zoning change at 1720 N. Damen Ave., the former home of a Marc Jacobs store at the Wicker Park-Bucktown border, citing insufficient social equity commitments.

The Wicker Park group forwarded its rejection to Waguespack’s office, but the Bucktown Community Organization has yet to submit feedback from a virtual meeting it held with the company, said 32nd Ward staffer Paul Sajovec. 

As a result, Waguespack was hesitant to move the application for the zoning change forward without a community meeting, Sajovec said. 

“At this point we can’t advance to the special-use phase on these dispensaries until we know how to fulfill the public meeting requirement,” Sajovec said. “Until there is some resolution to this my understanding is that the Alderman wants to have neighborhood groups review them and do as much as we can, but hold off on changing the zoning until we know there is a potential path forward regarding the special use.”

Developer Warren Baker sought two zoning changes: one to attract a dispensary to a building he owns at 1842 W. Webster Ave. in Waguespack’s ward, and another to allow for a craft grow, processing and infuser facility in a building he owns at 2015 N. Mendell St. in Ald. Brian Hopkins’ 2nd Ward.

Baker confirmed both proposals were being deferred.

“I think they’re trying to catch up with old items and haven’t quite figured out the remote hearing stuff yet,” he said.

A craft weed farm at 4243 W. Ogden Ave. was mutually deferred by the applicants and Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22nd) to allow for an in-person community meeting, said zoning attorney Sara Barnes.

“We are open to hosting the meeting on any kind of platform that allows for meaningful public discourse and engagement. The ultimate decision and direction, however, lies with the respective alderman and Mayor’s Office, to whom we respectfully defer,” she said.

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