Cannabis business looking to open in Evergreen Park meets skeptical community

A Chicago-based marijuana company is providing more details about its proposal to add a dispensary in the south suburbs after community members in Evergreen Park demanded answers to lingering questions and corrections about the group’s proposal.

During an April 15 public meeting, The 1937 Group expressed interest in an ordinance change and a special-use permit to allow it open a dispensary at the shuttered Scott Credit Union at 91st Street and Kedzie Avenue.

With one brick and mortar shop open in Illinois, the group — named after the Marihuana Act of 1937 — sees the south suburbs and Evergreen Park as a promising market.

“There isn’t a cannabis dispensary within 3 1/2 miles of Evergreen Park,” said Sonia Antolec, the chief legal officer for the group. “That revenue is going and those jobs are going to other communities. We do intend and would hire locally if the ordinance passes.”

The company’s plan is to open in four to five months, with about 10 employees per shift, and hours from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with a coffee shop feel, leaders for the group said.

They said the store would be staffed with guards and have many cameras, as the business operates about half in cash and half by debit card.

Residents and village trustees grilled the company’s CEO and other officials, expressing frustration over the pitch’s incorrect figures, unclear financial projections and problems inherent to marijuana sales.

“Unprepared. You guys are totally unprepared,” resident Carol Simpson said.

Trustees expressed concern the company was unable to project how much revenue the store would generate for the village in its first year. A village official also corrected a statement in the company’s presentation that said the width of a nearby alley would remain 16 feet, though residents noted the alley is now 20 feet.

Antolec said the slide deck was misunderstood and the group had used an example layout at a different location.

“We’re anticipating a net revenue between $7 and $8 million,” Antolec said, reiterating figures mentioned in the meeting.

With the village receiving 3% of sales through taxes, Evergreen Park would see a six-figure revenue gain, the group said..

“What is still unclear, because it is actually unclear to us,” Antolec continued, is “when the village would receive that.”

Residents also took issue with dispensaries in general.

Marijuana is not legal federally, forcing residents to buy the plant with cash or debit cards, according to the group’s management, raising concerns the shop would be a target for robberies.

The potential of increased crime was the most common concern of residents.

“I hear about their safety. I don’t hear anything about us,” said resident Kevin Gallagher.

Antolec said as her firm continues its dialogue with residents, officials will listen to the community about whether its guards should be armed or unarmed. The 1937 Group is also building a relationship with Evergreen  Park police to ensure the community’s safety, she said.

Residents also expressed skepticism about traffic concerns, why the store needs to be open until 9 p.m. and the possibility of people using fake identification. One resident said she read a study that stated marijuana stores were bad for the economy of a town, and was challenged to present that study contradicting what the group cited.

Antolec said residents were overall skeptical about the plan. But she says that is just a subset of the community and many people have been supportive of the plans.

“It’s also a diverse community of hardworking and sometimes blue collar individuals, which also aligns with who we are as a true social equity company,” Antolec said.

Evergreen Park Mayor Kelly Burke and trustees did not respond to requests for comment. Trustees will continue discussions on the dispensary at upcoming meetings. Neither Antolec nor the village clerk provided the Daily Southtown with the group’s proposal.

Antolec said the timeline of the event is in the hands of the village leaders, stressing her excitement for the project and the group’s immersion into the community.

“We really do become neighbors with the community.”

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