An emotional Bonnie Cosentino recalled her battle with cancer Friday night as she pleaded with Worth officials to approve a special-use permit for a marijuana dispensary on Harlem Avenue.
“I was sicker than a dog,” said Cosentino, a Worth resident. “Nothing worked for me. I was reduced to buying weed on the street. The benefit of this is amazing. I did not do this to get high. “I’m pleading with you to pass this. If you vote this down, shame on you.”
Cosentino was one of several residents who attended Friday’s real estate development committee meeting, which preceded a special meeting of the village board.
Residents spoke in favor and against the plan, but ultimately the village board unanimously approved the Windy City Cannabis Club’s request for a special-use permit and location for a marijuana dispensary at 11425 S. Harlem Ave.
The real estate development committee, which met prior to the village board, approved the special-use permit but rejected WCCC’s proposed location, saying it was too close to a residential neighborhood and lacked sufficient parking.
“I know that there is a great need for this,” said committee member Rocco Carioto. “I do have apprehensions about bringing it into the neighborhood. This is all new territory for us.”
But committee member Victor Roti said the dispensary was being held to separate set of standards.
“Would we be asking Walgreens or CVS all the same questions?” he said.
Worth Mayor Mary Werner said trustees did not reach their decision lightly.
“This is something the board has been thinking about very, very seriously,” Werner said.
She defended the location, saying it was easily accessible and might help the village attract other businesses to the Harlem Avenue corridor.
“I don’t think anybody would disagree that there’s a need for it in our society,” Werner added.
But other residents who attended Friday’s meeting voiced concerns about locating a marijuana dispensary in the village.
They complained that the clinic was too close to a residential area and could attract drug addicts or resellers.
“I don’t think this is a good idea for the village,” said resident Jack McGrath, who said medical marijuana should be distributed at hospitals or pharmacies.
Susan Banks, who lives across the street from the proposed clinic, expressed concerns about additional traffic and the impact on the neighborhood.
You’re right in the neighborhood,” Banks said. “You’re involving the neighborhood. You got too many kids in this neighborhood and it’s all we need.”
But Worth resident Shannon Beverley, a nurse’s assistant, said dispensaries have better control over medical marijuana because they are smaller and more secure.
“From everything I read, this place is going to be like a bank vault,” Beverley said.
She added that medical marijuana is too expensive for drug dealers to obtain and resell it at a profit. Additionally, she said, there is distinction between medical cannabis and “the street drug (that) makes you high.”
“If you’re getting it, you need it,” she said.
“There’s no profit margin,” said Steve Weisman, head of the WCCC ownership group. “The normal person has a medical card and does not have an incentive to resell.”
Weisman detailed the dispensary’s security plan, which will include 38 cameras and two-door entry system. Cashiers will sit behind secure teller window and delivery of the medical marijuana and the transport of cash will be handled by an armored truck.
“This has more security than any bank you’ve been to,” Weisman said.
The Harlem Avenue location is one of only a few in Worth that meets the state’s zoning requirements that prohibits clinics from locating within 1,000 feet of a school or day care center.
The WCCC ownership group had considered locations in Chicago Ridge, but had difficulty finding one that met the zoning requirements.
Chicago Ridge does not allow the clinics within 1,000 feet of parks or recreation facilities, which made the finding a location in that community even more difficult, Weisman said.
WCCC’s Worth clinic would be the sole dispensary for a region of the state that includes Worth, Calumet and Stickney townships.
The state’s medical cannabis act took effect on Jan. 1. The law allows the use of marijuana by individuals who have a medical need and a permit. Qualifying patients must be diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition. A qualifying patient with a state card can purchase 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.
Clinics are expected to open in spring 2015, which does not give selected clinics much time to prepare their sites for business and prepare a security plan.