Buzzkill: Progressive Treatment Solutions pot company can’t legally move dispensary to site of former Rainforest Cafe

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CHCIAGO — A cannabis company with close ties to the city government cannot legally proceed with plans to move a dispensary from Norwood Park to the site of the former Rainforest Cafe on the Near North Side.

Palatine-based Progressive Treatment Solutions, or PTS Corp., first informed the city’s zoning administrator of its plans last December, triggering the process to apply for the required special use permit from the Commission of zoning call.

PTS, which currently operates four Consume dispensaries and a grow center in Illinois, wants to move a dual-purpose pot store from 6428 N. Milwaukee Ave. at 605 N. Clark St., which previously housed the colorful Rainforest Cafe until it closed amid the pandemic in August 2020. Block Club Chicago first reported on the company’s efforts to relocate.

However, the plan appears to be a non-starter with no changes to state law.

A dispensary cannot open within 1,500 feet of an existing pot shop unless it is owned by a so-called social equity seeker, according to Finance Department spokesman Chris Slaby and Illinois regulations.

There are at least three dispensaries that seem to be within this distance. PTS, one of the first companies to be licensed to sell weed in Illinois, does not have social equity status, a designation created to diversify the male-dominated weed industry. whites.

Dispensaries that sell medical and recreational weed, like Consume in Norwood Park, also can’t legally leave their designated medical district, Slaby said. But PTS would have to do just that to move into the closed Rainforest Cafe building.

Cannabis company appoints Terry Peterson as CEO

The company’s newly installed chief executive is Terry Peterson, a former 17th Ward councilman who served in various positions in city government. Peterson served as an aide to former Mayor Richard M. Daley, headed the Chicago Housing Authority, and served as chairman of the board of the Chicago Transit Authority.

Peterson is black, which is extremely rare among cannabis executives at companies that currently sell marijuana in Illinois. A recent report by the IDFPR showed that only one African American held a stake in a dispensary in the past two years.

PTS was also run in part by David Flood, a businessman whose family owns Flood Brothers Disposal, a waste hauling company that has lucrative contracts with city agencies. Flood was previously treasurer and chief executive of the influential and wealthy Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois, which is now known as the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois.

State records show that PTS and Consume donated at least $139,500 to state lawmakers, and PTS currently has two high-profile lobbyists working on its behalf in Springfield, although it is not unclear if any changes will be made to the distance requirement during this legislative session.

In Chicago, cannabis has remained a loaded issue for years. As many people of color have effectively been shut out of the industry, city councilors have sought ways to accelerate the state’s diversity efforts — with marginal success.

Aldus. Brendan Reilly, whose 42nd Ward includes the former Rainforest Cafe, did not respond to a request for comment on the proposed move by PTS. His wife works at a Sunnyside dispensary owned by Cresco Labs and located at 436 N. Clark St., which appears to be within 1,500 feet of PTS’s desired location.

There is also a PharmaCann Verilife dispensary at 60 W. Superior St. and the Ascend MOCA dispensary at 216 W Ohio St.

Although three state-run lotteries have named the winners of 185 permits that could make up the next round of pottery shops in Illinois, a Cook County judge’s order continues to block their issuance. Nonetheless, some of the winners began seeking zoning approval in Chicago.

One such company, GRI Holdings, also has considerable influence and ties to the state’s medical cannabis industry and is also looking to open a store in the area once legal issues are resolved.

The company’s registered officers include restaurant magnate Phil Stefani; Thomas Wheeler Jr., former high-ranking Chicago cop, and John Trotta, former CTA vice president of purchasing and warehousing. Ashley Barry, former director of operations for the Illinois House Republican Organization, is also GRI’s Community Outreach Coordinator.

Throughout the application process, GRI was guided by two consultants with close ties to Springfield: Ross Morreale, the co-founder of one of the state’s highly lucrative marijuana grow sites and brother-in-law of the former State Rep. Michael McAuliffe (R-Chicago) and Jay Stewart, former director of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, the agency that will issue the new pot store licenses.

GRI has achieved social equity status by hiring a workforce of at least six people who meet various requirements, such as living in an area that has been harmed by the war on drugs or having an arrest or expugnable cannabis conviction.

GRI intends to locate inside The Blanc, a condominium and retail space located at 612 N. Wells St., reportedly less than 1,500 feet from the former Rainforest Cafe. They applied for zoning approval earlier this year.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire – Copyright Chicago Sun-Times 2021.)

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