DeKALB - The Junction Shopping Center is one step closer to getting a marijuana dispensary, after the city council approved a local license for the city's second pot shop Monday, though the owner says the state's license approval process may be delayed.
NuMed Partners LLC, an Illinois-based medical and recreational marijuana dispensary with shops in Chicago, East Peoria and Urbana, was approved by a 7-1 council vote (Ward 3 Alderman Tracy Smith was the only no vote) to head into a 6,600-square-foot space in the Junction Shopping Center, 818 W. Lincoln Highway.
Per city ordinance stipulations, they have six months to obtain a state license, build out the shop and open.
"We pride ourselves on acting more cautiously and reasonably than most," said NuMed CEO Bob Fitzsimmons who appeared in front of the council Monday. "We picked DeKalb for a reason, the demographic is near perfect. What's surprising is that we didn't pick it because of college students. Most of our clients believe it or not in Urbana are professionals because it's not an inexpensive product."
Not all were in support, however, as the city received a number of letters from residents voicing opposition to the plan.
DeKalb resident Margaret Gormley and her husband wrote to the city saying they do not approve of the shop being in the Junction, which they claimed has many family-friendly businesses.
"So we really want to expose our children to this?" Gormley's letter stated. "It will go right next to a laundromat, a laundromat that I use all the time. I worry about the safety and the smell. The whole area is filled with restaurants and stores that are family-friendly so I ask that we vote no."
Alderman Smith said his biggest concern was also location.
"I thought we were really keeping it away from NIU and our populace commercial development areas," Smith said. "I agree with the plan. It's just the location I have issues with."
Fitzsimmons said there is no noticeable smell from the products due to packaging requirements by the state, and he's already purchased a cultivation center west of town, so his operation will employ more than 100 people in the greater DeKalb area, he said. His dispensary has also undergone a safety vetting process with the DeKalb Police Department per the city's marijuana ordinance.
Ward 4 Alderman Greg Perkins asked Fitzsimmons how he plans to mitigate long lines such as those seen in other dispensaries across the state when sales became legal Jan. 1.
Fitzsimmons said his dispensaries do not allow people to wait in long lines, but worked with Chicago police to disperse lines.
"We collected names, gave back general call times," Fitzsimmons said. "We don't let 1,000 people line up. It's not good customer service. We have a text call back system.
Ward 5 Alderman Scott McAdams said his residents were wondering when the shop would be open.
"This isn't public information yet but there's a memo circulating that the state is not ready," Fitzsimmons said, adding he's hopeful for a fall opening. "So we may be off a couple months. The state has other issues which everybody understands. It will happen when it happens but hopefully no more than a quarter."
The DeKalb City Council has already approved city ordinances to allow for both medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries. The request marks the second in the city, though no shops have yet been set up. A marijuana permit was approved for Chicago-based BQ Enterprises in November for a shop at 700 Peace Road, however, the owners await state approval for a license before they can operate.
Documents show BQ Enterprises' state approval is expected to come within the next month. The city code allows only five marijuana businesses to operate within city limits at a time.