Legal recreational cannabis is coming to Illinois, but Rogers Park won’t get a dispensary anytime soon.
Current medical cannabis dispensaries — 11 of which are in Chicago — can immediately start selling recreational marijuana Jan.1 if they apply for a special Early Approval Adult Use Dispensing Organization license, according to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) website. As of Nov. 20 only four of the eleven dispensaries got the license.
Any new dispensaries looking to sell recreational marijuana have to apply for a Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization License, which won’t be awarded until May 2020.
But some Rogers Park residents who were hoping to get involved in the cannabis industry say the licensing fees pose a large obstacle.
Alan Majeski, a 55-year-old property manager, said he was initially interested in starting a dispensary, but with the high licensing costs, he said he’s not sure if he’ll be able to.
The licenses for new dispensaries are limited — only 75 will be given out by the state of Illinois — and it costs $5,000 to apply, according to the IDFPR website. If picked, the license costs $60,000 and lasts two years, the website said. In comparison, licenses for liquor cost around $5,000, according to the City of Chicago website.
“I don’t have that kind of money,” Majeski, a 40-year resident of Rogers Park, said.
According to the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (ICRTA), the law legalizing recreational marijuana, parts of the state were designated Disproportionately Impacted Areas (DIA) — communities historically impacted by the criminalization of marijuana. Parts of Rogers Park — between Howard Street and Touhy Avenue and between Pratt Boulevard and Devon Avenue — are designated DIAs.
Dispensaries with owners or employees who live in these areas or have been arrested for cannabis-related crimes are called social equity applicants and qualify for extra benefits, including technical support and reduced fees for licensure, according to the website. Social equity applicants only pay $2,500 to apply and $30,000 for the license.
Despite these incentives, there’s still a low turnout for social equity applicants, according to Torrence Gardner, Director of Economic and Community Development for Alderwoman Maria Hadden of the 49th Ward — which includes Rogers Park.
“[It’s hard] getting applicants to apply because of costs and awareness,” Gardner said.
Gardner said Hadden is working with the Aldermanic Black Caucus — 18 members of the Chicago City Council who represent the interests of Chicago’s black community, according to the group’s Facebook page — to try and get more social equity applicants and to raise awareness of the applications.
An event is scheduled Dec. 10 to offer more information on social equity criteria, but the details are still being worked out, according to Gardner.
“[It’s hard] getting applicants to apply because of costs and awareness.”Torrence Gardner
Loyola students and Rogers Park residents wanting legal marijuana will have to travel to Andersonville for the closest dispensary come Jan. 1.
Dispensary 33 (5001 N. Clark St.) — located about two-and-a-half miles from Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus — has been preparing for the Jan. 1 opening by doubling the amount of display cases and increasing inventory, said Abigail Watkins, marketing and outreach manager for the store.
Current medical cannabis dispensaries can also get a license to sell recreational marijuana for a second location, according to the IDFPR website.
After a Nov. 15 lottery, Dispensary 33 chose a location in the western part of Chicago for its second location.
“There’s only one other dispensary in the west district,” Watkins said. “There’s a lot of opportunity out there … a lot of neighborhoods over there need access to cannabis.”
It’s unknown when the second location will be ready to open, according to Watkins.
Some Rogers Park residents said they’re looking forward to legalization but hope more dispensaries open in the neighborhood.
“I’d like to see at least one [dispensary] open in Rogers Park so it’s convenient,” Majeski said. “I’d like to see the money stay in [Rogers Park].”
Another resident, Kim Kern, said she’s “very happy” with legalization and is looking forward to it.
Kern, a legal executive coordinator, said she has psoriatic arthritis, a condition that won’t let her get medical cannabis because it doesn’t count as a debilitating condition, according to the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act — the bill legalizing medical cannabis in Illinois in 2014.
“[Legalization] will allow me to purchase something legally which will improve my life considerably,” Kern, 53, said.
Medical cannabis can be used in the treatment of chronic pain, inflammation, nausea and other conditions, according to the website for the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Some Loyola students, such as senior Erika Meckauskas, said they were looking forward to the legalization.
“I’m very excited for [recreational marijuana] to be legal,” the 21-year-old English and theatre double major, said.
Another student, who asked to be anonymous because she currently uses marijuana illegally, said she’s glad it’ll be legal but doesn’t plan on buying from a dispensary.
“Marijuana will be more expensive from a dispensary than from my dealer,” she said. “I understand [dispensary products] may be safer, but if you know your dealer well it isn’t an issue.”
According to the ICRTA, items with less than 35 percent THC — the active ingredient in cannabis — such as joints would be taxed at 10 percent plus possible municipal and county taxes. Products infused with THC, such as edibles, are taxed at 20 percent, and anything above 35 percent THC will be taxed at 25 percent.