Prospect Heights council endorses pot shop over critics' concerns

  • A rendering of the Zen Leaf recreational cannabis dispensary proposed for the former First Midwest Bank building at 1434 N. Rand Road in Prospect Heights.

    A rendering of the Zen Leaf recreational cannabis dispensary proposed for the former First Midwest Bank building at 1434 N. Rand Road in Prospect Heights. Courtesy of city of Prospect Heights

  • This is rendering of the interior of the Zen Leaf recreational cannabis dispensary proposed for the former First Midwest Bank building at 1434 N. Rand Road in Prospect Heights.

    This is rendering of the interior of the Zen Leaf recreational cannabis dispensary proposed for the former First Midwest Bank building at 1434 N. Rand Road in Prospect Heights. Courtesy of city of Prospect Heights

 
 
Updated 7/14/2020 4:59 AM

Prospect Heights City Council members Monday expressed either outright support or at least lack of criticism for a proposed recreational marijuana dispensary near the intersection of Rand Road and Thomas Street that would be the city's only one.

A formal vote of approval on the Zen Leaf dispensary in the former First Midwest Bank building at 1434 N. Rand Road is scheduled for July 27.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But officials' comments were in contrast to those of seven critics from both Prospect Heights and Arlington Heights who say the pot store would be close enough to Hersey High School to the east and Thomas Middle School to the west to set a bad example for students there.

Those critics, including social worker Sebastian Emmanuel, acknowledged that the distance from the schools met the minimum 750 feet required by Prospect Heights and that the proposed business appeared to be taking security concerns seriously.

But they still suggested other locations farther from schools were more appropriate.

On the same evening that officials in Arlington Heights were revisiting their current ban on pot dispensaries, Prospect Heights Mayor Nick Helmer said he believed this proposed business' visibility would be the solution to rather than the cause of problems.

"The kids that are using marijuana underage now, guess what, already know where to find it," Helmer said. "How about looking at the parents?"

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Helmer was confident no one under the age of 21 would obtain marijuana from this dispensary, saying its owners know they would have no second chances after breaking the law.

City Administrator Joe Wade and Director of Building and Development Dan Peterson recapped the six months Prospect Heights spent last year coming up with its own marijuana sales laws -- including that only one dispensary would be permitted.

Aldermen spoke in support of that process and the outcome it produced.

"Like Joe has said, we spent a lot of time on this last year," 4th Ward Alderman Patrick Ludvigsen said. "This is not like a one-time meeting. This is the end of a process that started a year ago."

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