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.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Site for Cannabis Dispensary

    If I lived outside of Evanston I would not want to come to Evanston for anything, especially downtown Evanston. Parking fees, crime and the general attitude of Evanston's City Council and Manager's office to regulate everything, like banning plastic bags, would discourage me from patronizing businesses that opt to setup shop there.

    1. Like the outrageous sum of $2

      Like the outrageous sum of $2 per hour of parking, with the first hour free?

      And the scourge of crime, that is actually at historically low levels? The handful of shootings that have probably claimed the life of 1 person not involved in violence in the past few years?

      Evanston is great, and people come here from all over. If you don't like it, there's plenty of people willing to replace you.

      1. Yea Chuck!

        As a longtime Evanstonian aptly put it: "You really have to want to live here."

        And many people do. 

    2. How does this work?

      Niles Township includes Glenview, Golf, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Niles and Skokie. Combined they cover more area and more people than Evanston Township. DO they get a bigger piece of the tax revenue? Will they allow the exclusive location to be in Evanston?

      1. Fighting for pot shop

        It appears that any of the communities — assuming they have available municipally owned property that meets the location restrictions in the statute — is free to offer to lease that property to whoever wins the cannabis dispensary license for the area from the state.

        It's up to the winning licensee to determine which lease offer — from a private landlord or government entity — to accept.

        I believe whichever community ends up landing the dispensary gets to keep all the revenue from any local cannabis tax it imposes. That municipality, of course, also has to deal with whatever potential ill effects the dispensary might bring with it.

        It does not appear that any municipality has a veto over the location of a dispensary in any other municipality.

        — Bill

  2. Is Cat out of Bag?

    Is City giving consideration to a 4% Tax on Prescription Drugs?

    "So a 4 percent tax, Bobkiewicz says, could generate anywhere from roughly $20,000 to $200,000 in tax revenue for the city."

    1. Pot tax

      As described in the staff memo, the tax would only be on cannabis No mention of applying it to other prescription drugs.

      — Bill

  3. To Roycemore, Day Care Centers ?

    Is Roycemore and the day care centers on Orrington and Foster within that 1000 feet ?

    Once more the city is planning on how to get money off a business and not care about the lawsuits that will probably dwarf the revenue. Yes they say medical but how long will that last [either mis-direction of the product or push to open to recreational] with the way the city wants to look away.

    1. Distance from schools

      Check distances yourself on the city's map page. Looks like Roycemore is 1,500 feet away, Orrington and Foster closer to 2,000. Beacon Academy and Bright Horizons day care are both well over 1,000 feet away from 1800 Maple.

      — Bill

  4. Will they be able to sell pot

    Will they be able to sell pot in plastic bags? Tree huggers please answer!

  5. Well Stated

    Well stated, Chuck!  Oh, and maybe plastic bags wouldn't even be missed by such an enterprise.  They could always package the purchase in little custom made bags made from hemp.

  6. Who will bank these stores?

    Is it true that these dispensaries can not get bank accounts as the Federal Government does not approve and they can not process credit cards.  If so: How will they pay their rent?  In bundles of slightly fragrant old notes?  How long till every thief figures out these stores are full of cash and easily liquidated, high value, easy-to-transport product?

    Just asking?

  7. Silly season in Evanston

    It's silly season in Evanston.

    There is no medical evidence that smoking marijuana helps patients. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved no medications that are smoked, primarily because smoking is a poor way to deliver medicine.

    Marijuana remains in schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act because it has a high potential for abuse, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and no currently accepted medical value.

    The American Medical Association has rejected pleas to endorse marijuana as medicine, and instead urged that marijuana remain a prohibited schedule 1 drug at least until the results of controlled studies are in.

    The National Multiple Sclerosis Society stated that studies done to date "have not provided convincing evidence that marijuana benefits people with MS" and does not recommend it as a treatment. Further, the MS Society states that for people with MS "long-term use of marijuana may be associated with significant serious side effects."

    DEA has registered every researcher who meets FDA standards to use marijuana in scientific studies. Since 2000, for example, the California-based Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) has gained approval for 14 trials using smoked marijuana in human beings and three trials in laboratory and animal models. Not one of these researchers has found scientific proof that smoke marijuana is medicine.

    As you can see, medical marijuana is a joke and simply a roundabout way to legalize it for recreational use. But "progressives" on this issue ignore fact and follow their "feelings."

    Wake up, people.

    1. Another perspective

      For another perspective, one might read the six part series on marijuana legalization currently running in the New York Times.

      — Bill

      1. Sorry Bill

        On the big news, the New York Times has been a FAIL at least half the time. It is a publication that lost its creditability 20 years ago. Be careful what you read in the NYT.

    2. Al wants the government making medical decisions

      Al says:

      "As you can see, medical marijuana is a joke and simply a roundabout way to legalize it for recreational use. But "progressives" on this issue ignore fact and follow their "feelings."

      I find it interesting, Al, that you rail against "progressives", but your arguments against medical marijuana are based on statements from the FDA and DEA, along with the AMA ( which supported Obamacare).

      Al, do you want the government deciding which drugs are beneficial and which are not?  Do you want Pelosi and Obama and Bill Ayers and the Death Panel deciding which medicines are effective, and which are not?

      Shouldn't we leave this up to the Free Market, which always solves everything?

      Enquiring Minds want to Know.

  8. Another Wally scheme?
    This space has been vacant for a long time the city has lost at least $500,000 in rent due to its mismanagement.They never built it out to rent, it had a gravel floor, and no mech or electrical work. I know of one business man who was interested in locating there. Don’t believe the city claim lack of foot traffic. Again we have Wally thinking about another scheme to get us rich at our expense.
    Everyone needs to remember the recent Next Theatre mess with the city having them sign a note for the rent due, and then signing another lease for about $34,000 until the spring of next year.
    Who is Wally kidding here?

    1. What scheme?

      This reply is a little off topic, but not sure what the "scheme" is. 

      Seal the floor and new tenants usually have to break and cut through the concrete in order to lay the utilities to their specific purpose, creating unnecessary cost. 

      While I also don't understand why that location has had such a long term vacancy, your points of criticism are not justified.  It is very common practice to leave gravel and only stubbed mechanicals.

      1. Criticism is justified
        You hit the nail on the head- why was it vacant for years- if you are in business would you leave one of your asset sitting for years?

        So the question is who pays for all the utilities, flooring etc, this is a small space, not major commerical, the tenant would be small, so why wasn’t the work done? The city is a incompetent landlord.

        At one point the city had put this in a plan to fix – never did the work?

        The Scheme here is Wally now wants to move on this because he see a new tax, I suggest you take a look at a large number of the economic development, acitivities, Robert Crown, the wind mills on the lake, Harley Clarke, the water sales, all schemes that could never work in the real world. One after another they are totally not in the interest of the taxpayers.

  9. Just asking, now that selling

    Just asking, now that selling weed has become mainstream, will the laws be changed to stop the over prosecution of young African American males who sell dime bags of weed to willing buyers? More often than not these young men find themselves in prison for years for doing what the city is proposing to sanction. With all the fawning tv coverage of the developments in Colorado and Washington state, the illegal face of weed remains the young black kid, hancuffed, sitting in the back of the police car taking a ride that will cost him 10 years behind bars because of mandatory sentencing. Can we expect the same scrutiny for the Pot shop operators.

    1. Nope…..they will get the

      Nope…..they will get the required permits and patients with doctor approval..and buy all kinds of dope. The street sellers will continue to go to jail and the penalties won't even come down…get used to it. 

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