Green Gate, a recreational and medical dispensary operated by Verano, plans to move from North Rogers Avenue to 6935 N. Sheridan Road, about six blocks from Loyola’s Lake Shore campus. While some students and residents are supportive, others have raised concerns about corporate ownership of the dispensary and the resources it would give Rogers Park.
Verano announced a desire to relocate so that the dispensary would be located in commercial space instead of residential, as well as having more parking and space to expand.
The dispensary would move into the building that once housed Leona’s, an Italian restaurant that suddenly closed in 2019. The location is right next to the Morse Red Line stop, about a 10-15 minute walk from campus.
Joan Holden, director of the Loyola Wellness Center, said student use of marijuana is still possible, but stressed that Loyola is a non-smoking campus in the interest of student wellness.
Loyola’s smoke-free campus includes marijuana, tobacco, and vapes.
“We see dispensaries popping up everywhere, the fact that we have one near campus, we can’t control that,” Holden said. “But we are a smoke-free campus and we need to remember that.”
Holden said prospective students and their parents should “do their due diligence” when considering how having a dispensary close to campus might affect their college decision.
“The fact that we are a smoke-free campus is a very positive thing for families to consider when bringing their children to campus,” Holden said.
In order to move, Verano would need to get a rezoning, approval through the Lakefront Protection process, and a new permit through the Zoning Appeal Board.
Verano is a major marijuana chain, with dispensaries in twelve states and ten locations in Illinois.
49th Ward Alderman Maria Hadden hosted a community meeting on March 28 that brought together 82 community members to discuss Rogers Park residents’ views on potential relocation. Verano executive chairman Anthony Marsico outlined Verano’s plans for the space, which included a million-dollar rebuild.
During the presentation, the Zoom chat function was inundated with opinions and questions from members ranging from support to anger. Hadden interrupted at one point to condemn the chat conversation and said she would kick people out if the disrespectful discussion continued.
Greg Sherman, who is part of the organization Ex Cons for Community Change (ECCSC), then raised concerns during the Marsico Q&A that the dispensary industry was not doing enough to support people convicted of marijuana charges, and thinks it’s necessary. if Verano expands to Rogers Park.
“THEY HAVE NO COMMUNITY BENEFIT AGREEMENT!” Sherman wrote in the chat. “Verano must be held accountable for true social equity in the cannabis industry. Say no!! Our Alderman needs to do a better job of protecting the residents of Rogers Park! »
Tyrone Muhammad, founder of ECCSC, echoed Sherman’s concerns and said during the Q&A portion of the meeting that he did not believe the company would provide enough opportunities and resources for those affected by drug convictions.
“As an organization, we don’t stand for it,” Muhammad said at the community meeting. “We’ll be here all day and all night to make sure this place doesn’t come in.”
In response, Marsico said Verano is partnering with community and penal reform, focusing on dispensary training, job placement services and resume review.
“We partner with MFS (Metropolitan Family Services) and LAS (Legal Aid Society) and we work closely to sponsor cleared felons across the city to clear their records,” Marsico said.
Verano spokesman Steve Mazeika said in an email to the Phoenix that Verano partners with numerous organizations to offer “a variety of philanthropic and support services.”
Mazeika cited his attendance at a clinic with Legal Aid Chicago to counsel individuals with cannabis-related offenses and the expungement process, as well as a $50,000 donation to Mission Green, with which they plan to “get together.” engage more” this year.
Mazeika also said Verano has donated to other Chicago-based organizations, such as Howard Brown Health and Keshet, a nonprofit that runs programs for people with disabilities.
Muhammad expressed his displeasure with the company’s efforts and said Verano should do more.
Other residents expressed excitement that a dispensary was nearby, but were disappointed that it was not locally or minority owned.
Some community members have raised concerns about traffic jams, increased marijuana use at Loyola Park, and how this will affect Loyola students.
Marsico emphasized Verano’s desire to work with the Rogers Park community and said they were willing to make “reasonable” changes and partner with them on certain initiatives.
The meeting went over the allotted time by more than thirty minutes. Hadden and Marisco said residents of Rogers Park can rest assured this was just the first of many reunions. Hadden also assured residents that all their questions would be answered and made it clear that she had not made any decisions about opening the dispensary.
Oliver Ainsworth, a first-year criminal justice student, said he had no concerns about a dispensary near campus.
“I believe if you make something legal and make it easier to access, that makes it much safer to use,” said Ainsworth, 19.
Dima Hassan, a senior psychology student on the pre-med track, said she doesn’t view marijuana negatively.
“Let’s be honest, most students on campus already smoke weed anyway, so I don’t think it’s [student marijuana usage] would increase, I think that would make it more accessible, which might be a safer option,” said Hassan, 22.
While sophomore forensics student Nayeli Vargas generally thinks the dispensary opening could be a good thing, especially for people who need marijuana for medical purposes, although she thinks it might increasing drug use on campus.
“Since we’ve been in college, we’ve kind of had a level of maturity about it and if it’s recreational, I hope the students are smart about it,” Vargas, 19, said.
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