After nearly a year of development and a three-month build-out, the Windy City Cannabis dispensary is set to open in Homewood on Jan. 4, according to company officials.
WCC officials believe their dispensary at 1137 175th St. has achieved a challenging balancing act: It must be secure enough to meet stringent state requirements yet be comfortable and welcoming for clients.
Peyton Hurst, WCC chief operating officer, said the facility passed its state inspection and will soon receive its certification.
"We got the green light," he said.
The Homewood location will be the first to open of four dispensaries the company will operate in the Chicago area. The company also has licenses to open dispensaries in Posen, Worth and Justice.
Security and comfort were paramount goals in the design of the dispensary, Hurst said.
Homewood village officials and prospective customers got a chance Saturday to visit the dispensary.
Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld, Village Clerk Marilyn Thomas and village trustees Lisa Purcell and Jay Heiferman toured the facility along with three Homewood Police Department representatives, including Deputy Chief Bill Alcott.
After the tour, Hofeld said the dispensary appeared to be well-designed.
"I was glad our police got a chance to go through it," he said. "They seemed to think it was very secure."
The dispensary entrances have security features that include bulletproof glass, bullet-resistant walls, extensive surveillance and other measures designed to control access and protect staff and patrons.
The vault has a stout door that looks like it would be at home in a bank.
"This place is solid," he said. "It's about as close to Fort Knox as you're going to get on the retail side."
No one will be allowed into the building without proper identification, but once patrons are inside, the atmosphere changes. Bright white and red furnishings offer what the company officials hope will be a relaxing, inviting environment.
"We want people to feel comfortable, take their time and feel secure," Hurst said.
The waiting room has the look and feel common to other healthcare facilities like doctors' offices. There's a consultation room where patrons can discuss their conditions and needs with staff members in private. There's a display counter where product choices will be presented.
The final step before opening the doors in a few weeks is the addition of cannabis products.
Like dispensary operators, cannabis growers have had to comply with state regulations and pass inspections. The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act went into effect Jan. 1, 2014, but it has taken some time to get the first crops grown and products created.
Representatives of several growers were on hand Saturday to talk about the products they have and are developing.
Kevin Sink with Revolution Cannabis said the company is conducting research on product effectiveness by giving surveys to patrons in order to learn which strains of cannabis are most effective for treating specific conditions.
The products themselves might aid security since they are expected to be relatively unattractive to thieves, according to Weissman.
Unlike black market marijuana, which is intended mainly to get a user high, medicinal cannabis products come in small quantities and in forms associated with other common healthcare products, including capsules or pills; lotions or creams; and tinctures or oils. Products are designed not specifically to induce a high but to address the symptoms of illnesses.
Illinois recognizes 39 conditions as treatable with medical cannabis, and more have been proposed.
One registered cannabis user at the open house Saturday, Salvador "Steve" Cortez, said he thinks people are going to welcome the new dispensaries.
"I think this industry is going to move pretty fast," he said. "It will help people a lot more than alcohol," which he said many people have used to self-medicate prior to the legalization of medical cannabis.
To be able to purchase medical cannabis, patients must register with the state and are required to present documentation from their doctor.
Cortez said the registration process was not very difficult.
"It's a little bit of work, but if people go by the proper procedures they should have no problem," he said.
Medical cannabis dispensary plans to open in Homewood (HF Chronicle, June 15, 2015)
Homewood trustees approve medical cannabis zoning (HF Chronicle, Aug. 12, 2014)
Medical cannabis advocates hope to open dispensary in Homewood (HF Chronicle, July 21, 2014)