By Mia Mancini
Are you a Rogers Park or Edgewater resident with a prescription for medicinal marijuana? You finally won’t have to go so far to fill it.
On Tuesday, the GreenGate Compassion Center, a medicinal marijuana dispensary located at 7305 North Rogers Ave., opened their doors after a long series of setbacks.
In 2015, Illinois legalized medical marijuana dispensaries to treat 37 qualifying conditions.On November 9, 2015, the first dispensary opened in Illinois. One week later, the first dispensary opened in Chicago.
GreenGate, owned by Bob Kingsley, is one of 10 dispensaries in Chicago licensed to sell marijuana products.
It took three years for Kingsley to unlock the doors to his emporium. He first applied for a license in 2015.
But the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) denied it, citing “multiple regulatory issues.”
It’s unclear what those regulatory issues were exactly.
“Regulatory issues can be a complete range of things,” said Terry Horstman, Spokesman for the IDFPR, who declined to comment on what specifically delayed GreenGate.“Incomplete registration packets and location issues can be issues.”
Alderman Moore, however, said GreenGate’s opening was delayed because the employee running the Medical Marijuana Clinics department was fired while processing GreenGate’s license.
Kingsley declined to be interviewed for this article. He has not granted an interview to the press since 2016.
GreenGate also had to win the support of many area residents. In 2016, a committee of neighborhood residents called the 49th Ward Zoning and Land Use Advisory Committee voiced their support for the business. In November of that same year, Alderman Moore issued his support. GreenGate got the final approval from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation(IDFPR) to open this past March.
GreenGate will sell smokeable marijuana, edibles, oils and drinkable infusables. The average sale comes to about $100, but a partient may end up paying more or less depending on quantity and medical condition.
All medical marijuana must be purchased out-of-pocket. Health insurance companies don’t cover medical marijuana because the herb is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a medicine.
Opinions were mixed when Kingsley first announced his plans in 2015. Alderman Joe Moore says, “Most of the comments by email and at the community meeting were positive. Half of the audience was opposed, and half supported it.”
“Some of those opposed were concerned that it was located on a residential block and that it was too close to Pottawattomie Park,” said Alderman Moore.
Many Rogers Park residents are excited about the dispensary’s opening. “It’s about time Rogers Park is accommodating us who use medical marijuana to survive our daily lives,” said Nick Miller.
Others, however, aren’t so thrilled. One local resident, who didn’t want to be identified, said, “I’m worried about the crime it may bring.”
Supporters expressed a need for a dispensary in Rogers Park.
“Though I don’t have an illness, I agree that residents shouldn’t have to leave the neighborhood to get medical marijuana if it will provide them with relief from their pain,” said Angela Gomez.
The owner of the nearest dispensary, Dispensary 33 in Andersonville, isn’t worried about the competition. In fact, he’s looking forward to the opening.
“I fully support convenient access to medical cannabis for everyone who can benefit. I hope Greengate does a great job and becomes a mainstay in the area,” said Dispensary 33 owner Zach Zises.
GreenGate will provide job opportunities to veterans and people with disabilities in the Rogers Park township. Kingsley said it’s his opportunity to give back to the community and veterans diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Kingsley believes it’s important the dispensary gives children with qualifying conditions access to medical marijuana.
Zises said, “Communities vote on whether they support businesses with their wallets. My guess is Rogers Park residents will love the place and make the dispensary very successful.”