Proposal for marijuana shop near Buffalo Grove High School faces opposition

This story has been updated to correct the order of the names of Stevenson High School students pictured in a photo.

A proposal for a recreational marijuana dispensary near Buffalo Grove High School is drawing fire from students, the high school's principal and village board members.

Emerald Earth LLC hopes to open a 7,000-square-foot shop in the former Bank of America location at 1355 W. Dundee Road, in the Plaza Verde West shopping center.

But it will need a zoning variance from the village board, since it falls short of the minimum 1,000-foot distance from schools required under village code. The distance from the building to the high school's property line is 918 feet.

Buffalo Grove trustees Monday barely approved sending the application to the planning and zoning commission for further consideration, with trustees Eric Smith, Joanne Johnson and Gregory Pike voting in favor and Andrew Stein and David Weidenfeld opposed.

Stein pointed out that trustees had the high school in mind when they established the 1,000-foot minimum.

"It's not like they couldn't find another property in Buffalo Grove that was suitable for a cannabis dispensary," he added.

But Smith said Emerald has a right to ask for a variance.

"Just like any project, when it comes to us, they always come in asking for variances," he said. "And this is one of those instances where they're asking for a variance."

Among the opponents Monday was Stevenson High School student Kashyap Rajesh, a member of the school's Catalyst club, which encourages a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle.

"We're playing with the future of so many children that attend Buffalo Grove High School," she said.

Buffalo Grove Principal Jeff Wardle said a marijuana business so close to the school would make it "remarkably easy" to access its products. The school already is seeing an uptick this semester in the use of marijuana products.

Emerald's attorney, former Buffalo Grove Village President Jeffrey Braiman, said company CEO David Schwimmer has been an experienced owner and operator of cannabis facilities since 2015.

Braiman noted that the distance between the business and the high school building itself would be greater than 1,000 feet.

He also pointed out that a Walgreens store that sells alcohol is closer to the school than the proposed dispensary.

"The possibility of a minor buying alcohol is much greater than the purchase of cannabis," Braiman said.

A proposal for an Emerald recreational marijuana shop near Buffalo Grove High School faced opposition Monday from students, the school's principal and some village board members. Courtesy of the Village of Buffalo Grove
  Members of Stevenson High School's Catalyst club, from left, Shrinidhi Sriraman, Kashyap Rajesh and Eshaam Bhattad, speak against the proposal for a marijuana dispensary in Buffalo Grove. Steve Zalusky/
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