Bucktown Dispensary Gets Key Approval, But Neighborhood Group Wants More Social Equity Promises – Block Club Chicago

WICKER PARK — A recreational cannabis dispensary planned for the Wicker Park-Bucktown border is moving forward despite the objections of a local neighborhood group.

Verano Holdings want to open a Zen Leaf dispensary at 1720 N. Damen Ave., previously home to a Marc Jacobs store.

On July 22, the zoning of the property was changed with the approval of Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) to accommodate a cannabis dispensary.

Waguespack deferred the zoning change in May after the Wicker Park Committee, a neighborhood group that gives recommendations on community projects, opposed the pot shop, saying there were insufficient social equity commitments.”

Zen Leaf has been working with the Cannabis Equity Coalition of Illinois to commit to equitable hiring and purchasing practices. Last month, Zen Leaf announced it signed a community benefits agreement with the coalition that promises it will hire half of its workers from communities most affected by the war on drugs and make contributions to community organizations above what state law requires.

Wicker Park Committee president Kyle Sneed said the group rejected the dispensary plan knowing the basic parameters of that agreement. His group planned to withhold support for any dispensary in Wicker Park until so-called social equity dispensary licenses were awarded and the companies were given a chance to compete for prime locations.

The state law that legalized recreational weed allowed existing medical dispensaries to convert to recreational/medical shops and open a second recreational-only store. The state was set to award 75 new dispensary licenses aimed at increasing minority ownership in the industry on May 1, but those licenses were delayed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Justin Laurence/Block Club Chicago

Now, they may be awarded in two waves, with the bulk of the licenses not expected to be awarded until at least September.

Zen Leaf “got to

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