Evanston medical marijuana dispensary inches closer to opening


Daniel Tian/ Daily Senior Staffer

The site of Evanston’s potential medical marijuana dispensary at 1804 Maple Ave. is currently under construction. The state is scheduled to inspect the dispensary next month.

Stephanie Kelly, Managing Editor

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A medical marijuana dispensary could open in Evanston as early as next month, the dispensary said last week.

Staff of the incoming dispensary — named Pharmacannis — have been seeking to obtain a license to operate since the state announced in February that the company’s application was the highest-scoring in the region. Gov. Bruce Rauner then authorized the company to take steps to open a dispensary in the city.

The state is scheduled to inspect the dispensary at 1804 Maple Ave. in mid-October, Pharmacannis CEO Teddy Scott said. Construction at the location is almost complete, he added.

“Assuming that inspection by the state is complete, we will be authorized to go from that date,” he said.

The inspection is the last part of a four-step process Pharmacannis must go through to obtain a license for an Evanston dispensary, Scott said.

“It’s incredibly thorough, very detailed, so it requires a lot of time,” he said. “That’s what the state is requiring — rightfully so.”

Once inspected, Pharmacannis will be authorized to operate, but there may be no product to sell to customers immediately. The dispensary must wait to purchase a product from a cultivator. Scott said he is not sure whether it will be in October or November that the dispensary will be fully in operation.

In August, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which selected the original dispensary applicants, announced the registration of the first medical marijuana dispensary in the state.

Former Gov. Pat Quinn’s medical cannabis pilot program, effective Jan. 1, 2014, restricted the region containing Evanston and Niles Township to one dispensary.

The Evanston location of Pharmacannis will be convenient for Chicago’s north side residents, said Paul Zalmezak, an Evanston economic development official.

Unlike other Illinois dispensary sites, the Maple location is owned by the city. Pharmacannis staff and city officials have negotiated the terms of the lease, and the company began paying rent in August, Zalmezak said.

“I think this is going to work out for the city, and it’s going to work out for the company that’s been awarded the license,” city manager Wally Bobkiewicz told The Daily in February.

Aldermen earlier this year passed a 6-percent tax at the wholesale level on the profits cultivation centers make on cannabis sales to dispensaries.

The state does not allow a dispensary to tax a patient for the cannabis, Zalmezak said. Therefore, the city will generate tax revenue by taxing the dispensary’s purchases from the center, he said.

The city estimates it will collect roughly $117,656 in taxes from the new business, Zalmezak said. The estimate assumes there would be at most 25 patients per day and a wholesale cost of $125 per ounce of medical marijuana.

Although the city is in essence the landlord of the property, the state is the only entity with regulation power over the medical cannabis, Zalmezak said.

In addition to the increased tax revenue for the city, there are other reasons to have a dispensary in Evanston, Zalmezak said.

“There are some Evanstonians who will benefit from it,” he said. “If we can bring others from other communities into Evanston to get healthy, we’re proud of that. We think it’s a good thing.”

The photo caption accompanying this story was updated at 1:20 a.m. Wednesday for clarity.

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