A medical marijuana dispensary formally opened its doors Wednesday in Arlington Heights — relocating to a highly visible corridor from a hidden industrial park in Schaumburg.
Verilife, the new retail brand name behind Oak Park-based medical marijuana provider PharmaCann LLC, held a grand opening with state and local officials in its 4,200-square-foot strip mall space at 1816 S. Arlington Heights Road, next to Jewel-Osco. That’s about triple the size of the company’s old location at 1135 Tower Road in Schaumburg, near Meacham Road, which was among the first dispensaries to open when the state’s medical marijuana pilot program launched in November 2015.
Company officials were looking for a location that was more accessible for patients, had additional parking and was easier to find. Schaumburg zoning rules would have kept the dispensary in an industrial area, but Arlington Heights’ code considers dispensaries to be drugstores or pharmacies — a permitted use within business districts.
The Schaumburg location “was built for printing T-shirts, not for having people come in,” said Jeremy Unruh, PharmaCann’s director of external communications and general counsel.
The company earned approval from state regulators to relocate — so long as it was within a state-designated district covering Elk Grove and Schaumburg townships.
Though no zoning approvals were needed from the village board, Arlington Heights officials granted a business license after inspections by police, building and community development department staff.
“We’re glad we didn’t have the kind of hurdles you had to go through in Schaumburg, and we’re happy to have you,” said Trustee Bert Rosenberg, adding during an opening ceremony that the dispensary is an example of an “emerging business” officials are looking for.
Like Rosenberg, others at the event spoke of family and friends with illnesses who they say have benefitted from using medical marijuana. Some were there to advocate for additional measures on marijuana policy.
Maureen and Jim Surin of Schaumburg buy cannabis oil drops and a medical patch from PharmaCann for their 12-year-old daughter, Ashley, to control her seizures. The parents sued Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 when her school refused to help administer the medication on school grounds, but the Illinois attorney general’s office said in January it wouldn’t take legal action against the district.
Ashley’s Law, which would allow children prescribed medical marijuana to be able to take it on school grounds, passed both chambers of the General Assembly and is being considered by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Cook County Commissioner Tim Schneider, also the state GOP chairman, said he would ask Rauner to sign it. “This is not a partisan issue,” Schneider said.
State Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, also wants Rauner to sign legislation that would allow those prescribed opioids access to medical marijuana as an alternative.
Some 38,000 people in Illinois who have been diagnosed with at least one of about 40 debilitating conditions have been approved to use medical marijuana, according to state records.
There are now 54 licensed dispensaries statewide — of which PharmaCann has three others: Evanston, North Aurora and Ottawa. It also operates cultivation centers in Hillcrest and Dwight.