High demand for legal pot creating parking woes near dispensaries

If you plan to buy marijuana or other cannabis products at the Rise dispensary in Mundelein, be warned: Police aren't putting up with parking scofflaws.

Located in an industrial area at 1325 Armour Blvd., Rise is Lake County's only pot store. And its 37-space parking lot hasn't been big enough to meet customer demand since the purchase and possession of cannabis for recreational purposes became legal in Illinois on Jan. 1.

In the subsequent month, patrons who couldn't find proper parking spots left their cars on grass, next to fire hydrants and on private property, Police Chief Eric Guenther said. Delivery drivers, employees and customers of other businesses in the area had trouble getting to and from their destinations because of the cars.

“The lines were up and down the street,” said Annie Patrick, chief financial officer at Components For Industry, 1351 Armour Blvd. “People were parking in front of and blocking our (loading) dock.”

Similar parking issues arose at the dispensaries in North Aurora and Addison that now serve recreational users.

To deal with the issue in Mundelein, police set up temporary no-parking signs and are ticketing violators, averaging about nine a day in January. Some cars have been towed.

“We had to do something,” Guenther said. “It was a public safety situation.”

Rise struck a deal with the village to temporarily allow parking in a nearby vacant lot, beginning late last week. The lot's creation has alleviated — but not eliminated — the parking problem there, officials said Monday.

Company representatives said they want to be considerate neighbors.

“We are working closely with local officials and doing everything possible to educate customers about where they can legally park,” said Linda Marsicano, a spokeswoman for Green Thumb Industries, Rise's parent company.

High demand

Rise opened as a medical marijuana dispensary called the Clinic Mundelein in 2015. The name changed just days before sales to recreational users began.

Rise had an estimated 2,000 customers Jan. 1 — far more than police or area business owners expected. No-parking signs started going up on sawhorses near Rise the next day.

Police wrote about 270 parking tickets in the area in January, Guenther said.

“The parking has been a nightmare there,” he said.

Parking wasn't a problem when the dispensary served only customers seeking medical marijuana, Guenther said. Now that any adult can buy pot, traffic has increased “exponentially,” he said.

Rise's geographical location may contribute to the problem.

Pot possession remains illegal in Wisconsin, and Rise is the first dispensary many residents of that state come across if driving to the Chicago area to buy the drug legally.

Police estimated between 10% and 15% of the cars parking near Rise last month had Wisconsin plates.

Guenther insists the tickets — typically carrying $25 fines — aren't simply a cash grab by police. Some two dozen businesses around Rise have complained about illegally parked cars, he said.

“I have to have a response,” he said.

Not just Mundelein

Parking is in short supply at North Aurora's Verilife dispensary, too.

The shop operates in an office building at 161 S. Lincolnway that also houses a U.S. Veterans Affairs clinic and other businesses. The closest large public lot is about a quarter-mile away.

“Several cars have been towed since the dispensary opened due to vehicles being parked on private property,” North Aurora Police Chief David Fisher said.

The police station is across the street from the dispensary, and Verilife customers often park there if they can't find space at the store.

“About an hour and a half before they open, my lot gets packed,” he said. “But I have to sometimes limit the parking if we are holding a training class or some other function that is being held there.”

Like Rise, Addison's EarthMed dispensary, 852 S. Westgate St., is in an industrial area. Parking at EarthMed was “hectic” for the first few days after the law changed, Deputy Police Chief Brian Goss said, but it's tapered down over time.

Police have written 170 parking tickets in the area around the shop since Jan. 1, he said.

“That is not to say that all the parking tickets were related to EarthMed,” Goss said. “We have no way of knowing that.”

Still, officers monitor the area and ticket vehicles appropriately, Goss said.

New lot is helping

Up in Mundelein, the new, temporary parking lot across the street from Rise seems to be easing the problem.

The village board approved the lot's creation in mid-January, at Rise's request. The roughly 2.5-acre site is owned by Frank Dziadus, president of the nearby Midwest Masonry business.

The lot had been grassy open space, but now it's topped with gravel. The curb was cut to allow auto access.

The space has room for up to 100 cars. It will be paved when the weather is warm enough for that work.

As for the traffic in and out of the area, Guenther expects the customer count at Rise will lessen once more suburban dispensaries open in the months to come. But until then, people will keep driving to Mundelein — and police will remain on the lookout for illegally parked cars.

“We've got a good five to six months of this before we see a reprieve,” Guenther said.

Components For Industry's Patrick appreciates the department's efforts.

“They really stepped up,” she said.

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  A car near the marijuana dispensary in Addison was one of several ticketed for parking illegally - way back on Jan. 3. Since Jan. 1, 170 parking tickets have been issued around the dispensary. Jake Griffin/
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