ROGERS PARK — The new parent company of a Rogers Park pot dispensary wants to move the shop from a “hidden” location into a prominent former restaurant space on Sheridan Road, but some neighbors aren’t buying in to the plan.
Verano Holdings, which owns Green Gate Dispensary in Rogers Park, needs the city’s approval to move the pot shop into the former Leona’s at 6935 N. Sheridan Road.
The move would take Green Gate, 7305 N. Rogers Ave., out of a more residential area and inject life into a vacant building on a busy corridor, Verano officials said.
Verano representatives presented plans at a community meeting Monday hosted by Ald. Maria Hadden (49th).
The company — one of the biggest cannabis firms in the country — plans to put $1 million into the buildout of the former Leona’s, representatives said. The move would expand the dispensary’s capacity to serve customers and patients while putting it in a commercial area, said Anthony Marsico, executive vice president at Verano.
The company also plans to rebrand Green Gate into its Zen Leaf family of dispensaries.
“The current location … it’s very small for anyone that’s been in there, limited parking and kind of hidden,” Marsico said. “What we’re looking for is more of a flagship location, which will provide patients better access to our products and also revitalize a vacant retail space.”
But neighbors at the community meeting said the move might not be in the area’s best interest.
The dispensary would open on Sheridan Road but would still neighbor homes on Morse Avenue. Residents said they were concerned about the increased traffic that would cause as well as more cannabis consumption at nearby parks.
Some neighbors also lamented that Verano is a multi-state, publicly traded firm and said the neighborhood should focus on bringing a social equity dispensary to Rogers Park. Others opposed to the relocation cited a federal lawsuit brought recently against Verano that alleges the firm helped illegally transport pot from Illinois to Arkansas.
Marsico denied the accusations.
“We would not have a license if there was anything like that going on,” he said.
Two former employees of Green Gate said Verano’s takeover of the dispensary has not been good for workers or customers.
Former Green Gate manager Colin Miller said Verano canceled the rewards points accrued by Green Gate’s medical customers, improperly allowed customers to make two purchases in one day and allowed for moldy products to be stocked in the store. Miller left Green Gate shortly after being acquired by Verano, he said at the meeting.
“I was nervously optimistic and was hopeful that the partnership could yield a benefit for employees and the community,” Miller said. “Unfortunately, dishearteningly, I have seen the exact opposite.”
Marsico denied the allegations.
Other neighbors said relocating the dispensary would help fill a vacant eyesore on Sheridan Road while helping other businesses in the area.
Green Gate opened in Rogers Park in 2018. The then-independent dispensary remained medical-only even when Illinois’ adult-use cannabis law went into effect in 2020. It opened to recreational customers in April 2021, around the time the acquisition by Verano was announced.
Verano needs City Council and the Zoning Board of Appeals to sign off on the relocation, which requires a zoning change. The Plan Commission will also have to approve the move as the location falls within the lakefront protection zone.
Hadden’s office will launch a survey for neighbors to submit feedback on the proposal. She said her office has sought to fill Leona’s, which has sat vacant since 2019, but the pandemic’s impact on restaurants has impeded that effort.
“This was always going to be a complex topic,” Hadden said. “People have different feelings about cannabis.There’s a lot to unpack here.”
For more on Verano’s relocation proposal, click here.
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