Evanston city officials hope to cash in on the state's new medical marijuana law by becoming the landlord for the only cannabis dispensary in the area.
The city's Human Services Committee is scheduled to vote Monday on the plan that would seek to locate the dispensary in a retail space in the city's Maple Avenue garage that's been vacant since the garage was built in the late 1990s.
Under the state's medical marijuana statute, only one dispensary can be located in the area that encompasses Evanston plus Niles Township.
The state law also has rules to keep dispensaries at least 1,000 feet away from elementary and secondary schools and childcare facilities. It also bars them from residential districts and requires that dispensary sites comply with local zoning rules.
Combined, city officials say, those restrictions mean that only a handful of sites toward the north end of Evanston's downtown district could house a dispensary.
An image of the Nature's AZ Medicines dispensary in Phoenix included in the city staff memo.
In a memo to aldermen, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says about 10 different would-be dispensary owners have inquired about using the garage site.
He says the groups seeking to open dispensaries "have generally been comprised of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals."
In addition to getting a market-rate rent on the 2,200 square foot space, Bobkiewicz says the city could impose a tax on the cannabis sales.
Estimates of how many of the 180,000 residents of Evanston and Niles Township might become customers of the dispensary, the memo says, range from 0.2 to 1 percent, and each customer is forecast to spend $2,000 to $3,000 a year on the drug.
So a 4 percent tax, Bobkiewicz says, could generate anywhere from roughly $20,000 to $200,000 in tax revenue for the city.
Bobkiewicz says that at this stage none of the prospective dispensary operators have been approved by the state, but that to have a chance to win approval they have to demonstrate that they have identified a landlord who's potentially willing to rent to them.
So he's asking the aldermen to approve issuing a letter to the applicants that would indicate the city is willing to consider leasing the garage space to a operator who wins a state license.
He says the city has had difficulty leasing the space to other users because it lacks the foot traffic most retailers want and can't be equipped with the ventilation equipment needed by most restaurants.