Two dozen apply to open Evanston marijuana dispensary

Paige Leskin, City Editor

More than 20 entities have submitted applications to open a marijuana dispensary in Evanston, the city manager said Monday.

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said Evanston itself does not accept the applications or select the dispensary. However, the city has provided letters of lease approval to anyone who asked to include the proposed Evanston location, 1800 Maple Ave., on its application to the state, a move aldermen approved at City Council on Aug. 11.

“We basically took all comers, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

As of Monday, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, the body in charge of reviewing and selecting applicants for marijuana dispensaries and cultivation centers, had stopped accepting applications. The department started taking applications Sept. 8.

Under Gov. Pat Quinn’s  “Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act,” which became effective Jan. 1, medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation centers can be established in Illinois for the purpose of giving out medical marijuana to qualifying patients.

The law includes limitations on the specific locations of the centers. Only 60 centers are allowed throughout the entire state and a certain amount are designated per geographical area.

Through this breakdown, only one dispensary is allowed within the boundaries of Evanston and Niles Township, which includes Skokie, Lincolnwood, Golf and parts of Morton Grove, Glenview and Niles.

However, Bobkiewicz said he thinks the Evanston site is more attractive than the Niles Township site because of its central location near parking and transit.

“There’s going to be one somewhere in the area, so why not Evanston?” he said. “I think we’re feeling pretty confident that the location that is selected in (Evanston) will likely be that location, but we will not know until the state of Illinois makes that decision.”

The state law also requires that dispensaries be located more than 1,000 feet from certain properties, including schools and child care facilities.

With these statutes, along with Evanston’s zoning restrictions, the empty commercial space located at the Maple Avenue parking garage was one of the three spaces available where Evanston could place a dispensary.

If the dispensary were to come to Evanston, the city plans to impose its own tax, Bobkiewicz said. He cited the city’s status as a “Home Rule community,” which allows goods sold at the location to be subject to a tax determined by Evanston officials.

Staff estimated in a memo to City Council on Aug. 5 that a 4 percent tax, which is around what cities nationwide have used, could bring in between $28,800 and $216,000 per year.

Evanston does not plan to impose further regulations on the dispensary if it were to come to the city, as the current state statutes are restrictive enough, Bobkiewicz said. If anything, limitations in Illinois have been stricter than other states with medical marijuana centers, he added.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the potential location for a dispensary. Only one dispensary is allowed within the boundaries of Evanston and Niles Township. The Daily regrets the error.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @paigeleskin