As the medical cannabis industry continues its slow rollout, Homewood is set to join the ranks of communities hosting cannabis dispensaries.
Windy City Cannabis Club, which was approved for licenses in four districts, is planning to open a facility on 175th Street later this year or early in 2016. Homewood is in District 40, which includes Bloom and Thornton townships. WCCC will also have dispensaries in Districts 37, 38 and 39.
Steve Weisman, CEO of WCCC, said the build-out of the dispensary would begin soon, but the opening date will depend on availability of product, and cannabis cultivation centers have experienced delays getting the first crop going.
Converting what was considered an illicit business into a legitimate industry comes with a number of challenges, from stringent government regulation to easing the public's fears about crime and drug abuse.
In spite of those issues, Weisman said the communities WCCC has worked with have been welcoming. In addition to Homewood, WCCC is planning dispensaries in Justice, Posen and Worth.
"We've been encouraged by how welcoming the communities have been," he said.
Weisman said once the facility is ready, WCCC plans to host several seminars so local residents can ask questions and learn about how the dispensary will operate.
In 2014, the village of Homewood amended its zoning ordinance to limit cannabis dispensaries to the industrial zone that runs from Dixie Highway and Harwood Avenue, along Maple Road and 175th Street on the north side of the village.
During that process, local law enforcement officials expressed skepticism about the advisability of locating a dispensary in the village. They worry the availability of the drug could increase crime in the area.
Weisman said a number of precautions will be taken to prevent that.
"It's going to be a hybrid between a pharmacy and a bank," he said. "It'll look like a doctor's office or pharmacy."
But it will have security features commonly found in banks, including motion detectors, cameras and a vault.
The rules governing the budding industry are stringent. When then-Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act in August 2013, he and the bill's sponsors touted it as a way to ease suffering but also called it the most restricted medical cannabis law in the nation.
The law went into effect Jan. 1, 2014, but the development of rules took some time, and the transition between Quinn and Gov. Bruce Rauner added to the delays when Quinn declined to issue licenses for cannabis facilities prior to leaving office.
"It's an industry that's perfect for a lawyer," Weisman said. "There's lot of compliance."
WCCC has the advantage of having a lawyer as its CEO. Weisman said he switched from law to the medical cannabis business because it looked like a good opportunity.
"I'm not a doctor, but anecdotal evidence suggests this really works," he said. "This is a medical product, and it's going to help people who are suffering."
Initially, cannabis was approved to treat 30 health conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, HIV and AIDS, Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis. On May 4, the state's advisory board for medical cannabis recommended 11 additional conditions and diseases be authorized.
State officials announced June 3 that approximately 21,800 people applied for the medical cannabis patient registry application through the Department of Public Health. The application process was opened Sept. 2, 2014. Of those, 3,100 have submitted a complete application and nearly 2,500 approval letters have been sent to qualifying patients.
Contact Eric Crump at [email protected]
Medical cannabis advocates hope to open dispensary in Homewood (HF Chronicle, July 21, 2014)
Homewood trustees approve medical cannabis zoning (HF Chronicle, Aug. 12, 2014)