Medical marijuana stirs pot in East Lakeview

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The address 2843 N. Halsted St. has remained empty for years after the last business that called it home closed its doors in 2010. That vacancy may soon be filled thanks to a proposal by Chicago-based company MedMar Inc. to build a medical marijuana dispensary at the Lakeview location.

On Nov. 10, members of the East Lake View Neighbors voted in favor of the proposition, prompting support from some area residents and strong opposition from others.

The primary concern of those opposing the dispensary is the possibility that it will lead to an increase in neighborhood crime. Joe Eskey, who lives directly across the street from the potential dispensary location, spoke with NBC Chicago about the issue.

“Concerns range from what this will do to my property value, to this is an unsafe neighborhood,” Eskey said.

The fact that dispensaries usually only accept cash as payment only heightens these concerns. One area resident — who chose to remain anonymous — told the Chicago Sun-Times she was particularly concerned about this possibility.

“I cannot believe that anyone thinks this will not increase the crime rate in our neighborhood. We cannot compare ATM machines to somebody that’s trying to get a substance they’re addicted to,” she said.

MedMar Inc.’s security chief, John Sullivan, addressed this issue at the Nov. 10 meeting. “I know people find this hard to believe,” Sullivan said. “There’s 23 states that’ve done this. In every single one, crime has gone down.”

He even described the high security the company has planned for the location to prevent theft on the store’s property and protection during deliveries. Multiple security cameras and an enclosed inside dock would be installed, adding to the security of not only the dispensary but to the surrounding area, as well. 

Not all Lakeview residents are concerned about the proposed dispensary, however.

“I live in East Lakeview and really don’t have a problem with (the dispensary) at all. To me, it just seems really unlikely that it would lead to more crime in the area,” Helen Gustafson, a DePaul sophomore, said.

James Bailey, a sophomore at Columbia College Chicago, agreed.

“My apartment is just a few blocks away from where they’re thinking of putting it, and I’m not worried at all. If people were more educated on the subject, they’d probably be more relaxed about it,” Bailey said.

Whether the dispensary will become a reality is no longer up to these Lakeview residents. With the proposal officially approved by the neighborhood, the city will have the final say in a vote Nov. 21.