Mundelein medical marijuana dispensary gets state approval, gives tours

ChicagoTribune

Mundelein marijuana dispensary gives tours, plans to be ready late October

A medical marijuana dispensary in Mundelein opened its doors Thursday, the day before getting its state license, to give informational tours. One of the owners said he anticipates having a first batch of cannabis to sell by late October.

Green Thumb Industries, co-owned by Chicago entrepreneur Ben Kovler, was given the top score of all dispensary applicants for Lake County, state documents show, and the company chose in February to build in Mundelein.

Called “The Clinic Mundelein,” the dispensary is located at 1325 Armour Boulevard, part of an industrial park off Townline Road just north of Butterfield Road. About 50 people attended the event Thursday. Among them were those who said they hoped to be served by the clinic.

“Once this is ready, I can stop taking 20 ibuprofen each day. You’re not supposed to take that much for as long as I have,” said Matt Johnson, 34, of McHenry, who said he has multiple sclerosis and ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory disorder. “I don’t have insurance and Medicare doesn’t cover this, so I’m here today to get ask about prices and see if they have preferred doctors.”

The Mundelein facility on Friday became the second licensed dispensary in Illinois and the first in the Chicago area, according to Terry Horstman, a spokesman for the Illinois department of financial and professional regulation.

So far, the only other dispensary approved to distribute medical marijuana, Horstman said, is in downstate Marion. Horstman said he’s not allowed to disclose what other dispensaries are nearly done with the licensing process.

“The bigger factor, I’d say, involves when the packaged product will be available,” Horstman said.

Kovler was at the dispensary on Thursday to greet local politicians, advocacy groups and state-registered patients.

“There are still some regulatory things we’re going through, like employee screening, but we’re excited to give this glimpse so people know this is in fact happening, and it’s important to show them where they can buy our product so that when everything is ready our customers are familiar with us and can easily find us,” he said.

More information sessions are being planned leading up to the facility going live, Kovler said.

The building that will house the dispensary includes a public foyer with a locked door leading to a waiting room. In that room, another locked door leads into a large consulting area that features a counter with display packages and product in a glass case. A window with a small opening in the corner is where prescriptions will be filled.

About $1 million has gone toward constructing the dispensary, Kovler said, and it will open with five employees.

He said potential customers have reached out to the company via its website and Facebook page with questions about timelines. It was a Facebook announcement that attracted Thursday’s crowd, Kovler said.

Nicole Conley, 24, of Island Lake, said she made the trip to learn more about the types of medical marijuana that could be offered once the dispensary opens. Conley said she has epilepsy after a 2007 car accident and her current prescription medication causes uncomfortable side effects.

“[Medical marijuana] is going to be a whole lot easier, and the drop-off won’t be so sudden and painful when it starts to wear off,” Conley said.

As for where the Mundelein dispensary will get its medical marijuana, Kovler said he’s already working on it.

Rebecca Clark, a spokeswoman for the Illinois department of agriculture, said 18 cultivation centers were given preliminary permits earlier this year and, so far, nine have passed inspection and are growing marijuana. Kovler’s Green Thumb Industries was given permission to operate two cultivation centers. State records show the company was approved for a center in Rock Island, a far west community near Iowa, and another in Oglesby, located about 60 miles west of Joliet.

“We will supply our own store, but we may from time to time buy from other cultivators if they specialize in one type or another,” Kovler said.

Kovler said his teams began growing marijuana in early July and he expects to start harvesting by Oct. 20. He said packaging would then take another week or two. He and his staff said they plan to dispense the drug by late October or early November.

James Melledy of Mundelein was at Thursday’s event and said he hoped to work at one of the cultivation centers. Melledy said he studies horticulture at the College of Lake County.

“This will quickly become the biggest business out there,” Melledy said. “I already like the line of work, why not find the most successful industry to do it in?”

Mundelein was a popular choice for dispensaries, as all three companies that were approved for Lake County tried to lease space in the same industrial park. Kovler said he wanted space in Mundelein because the village ordinance was among the most lenient.

Village trustees in July 2014 voted 5-1 to make medical marijuana dispensaries a permitted use, which means public hearings and detailed impact studies are not required. Therefore, a dispensary can open after filing normal paperwork proving it meets state and local guidelines.

Many communities require prospective dispensaries to get special-use permits as a form of extra oversight. At the time, several Mundelein trustees said dispensaries are no different than CVS, Walgreens or Jewel-Osco pharmacies.

“We don’t want to operate anywhere that doesn’t want us,” Kovler said. “We like to be valuable members of the community.”

By Rick Kambic РSuburbs