DeKALB - More than two years after a regional marijuana dispenser first sought to set up shop in DeKalb, shop representatives are again asking the city for more time amid a state-level stall.
NuMed Partners LLC – which has pot shops in Chicago, East Peoria and Urbana – wants to set up a dispensary in The Junction Shopping Center, at 818 W. Lincoln Highway, formerly the home of Book World. Its local license was first approved by a 7-1 DeKalb City Council vote in April 2020. However, stalled permit handouts at the state level, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, have delayed any chance of a shop opening in DeKalb.
Jim Hughes appeared before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday to ask the city, for a second time, to extend its approved permit as the dispensary attempts to gain approval for a cannabis dispensary license from the state of Illinois. When a dispensary seeks to put down roots in a community, it must get both local and state approval.
NuMed already was approved once by the DeKalb City Council for a license extension in April 2021.
“I’ve been back here a couple times, unfortunately, to see everybody,” Hughes said. “We are still in the holding pattern with the state.”
If NuMed is granted a state permit, under its contract with the city of DeKalb, the shop would need to be built out within six months. The city of DeKalb’s marijuana dispensary ordinance also includes stipulations that dispensaries get a security protocol approved by the DeKalb Police Department.
No dispensaries have been approved to operate in DeKalb. However, Aromah’s Hookah Bar across the highway from the proposed NuMed location allows for adults to use marijuana in the lounge.
In 2020, Illinois issued 185 licenses for dispensaries to operate around the state, which is divided up into zones, meant to disburse licenses across the region based on population. DeKalb County’s zone includes the county and into northwestern Illinois, said Dan Olson, principal planner for the city.
“We’re probably the largest county population-wise in the district,” Olson said. DeKalb County didn’t receive any permits in the 2020 lottery, however.
Olson said city leaders are still keen on the dispensary, should it come to pass. Over the past two years, the DeKalb City Council has voted in favor of several proposals for dispensaries, citing their potential to bring in additional tax revenue. In March, the city council approved amending its marijuana ordinances to make it easier for dispensaries to set up shop in the downtown business district.
If approved as recommended unanimously by the commission Monday, the NuMed license extension would run again through July 1, 2023.
“So that should give plenty of time to get the process going and hopefully issue a license to the applicant, which would be great for the city,” Olson said. “[It’s] something we very much supported in the past.”
In response to its lottery, the state was targeted by several lawsuits alleging unfair procedures in the lottery process. Last month, the Circuit Court of Cook County lofted the stays of those permits, which Hughes said could open the door for another round of lottery.
NuMed already has two dispensaries approved, Hughes said. And he’s not ready to give up on DeKalb yet.
“Out of the 180, we did win two – one in the Chicago district and other down in Danville,” Hughes said. “We are still very, very, very positive about the location, about DeKalb. And to that point we’ve been paying [The Junction Center landlord] monthly rent, and that kind of shows how much we believe in the location and DeKalb.”
Hughes said NuMed also is open to partnering with other dispensaries should they receive a license in the area instead.
“We would look forward to seeing if you would be so kind as to extend us for one year and let’s see where we go here,” Hughes said. “We’re all ready to go. We’ve got the management people set to go. It’s just the state can’t get out of its own way, very candidly.”
The DeKalb City Council is expected to take up the license extension vote at a future meeting. The council next meets Monday.