Richmond gives thumbs up to marijuana dispensary

Second dispensary in McHenry County could be open by late spring

The former Blackhawk Bank, 9705 Prairie Ridge Road, in Richmond,  Richmond was closed this summer and is now being considered as a location for the village's first marijuana dispensary from Chicago-based 280E LLC. a public hearing is set for 6 p.m. Monday at Richmond Village Hall.

Zachary and Brian Zises hope to have their marijuana dispensary open in Richmond before April 20.

Known as 4/20 in the marijuana world, the day is a “cannabis holiday,” said Zachary Zises after Thursday’s Village Board meeting. The board had just, without discussion, unanimously approved a special use permit for their company, 280E Prairie Ridge LLC, allowing it to move into the former Blackhawk Bank.

“We have all had the discussions previously,” Richmond Village President Toni Wardanian said. Those discussions, she said, came during the question-and-answer session and a previous Richmond Plan Commission meeting in August when Zachary Zises pulled his original application.

That previous application, for a new building at 5500 Swallow Ridge Drive, was pulled from consideration due to neighbor concerns about traffic at the intersection. That location was less than a mile from the Wisconsin border.

“He is a stand-up guy,” Richmond Trustee Bob Elliott said following the vote, noting that when residents said they were not in favor of the previous location, he pivoted to the former Blackhawk Bank location.

Although the board voted without comment, a few residents who attended the meeting did.

That included the Rev. Tim Oswald. The Lutheran pastor is also a Richmond Plan Commission member who voted against the dispensary on Monday. Oswald shared his concerns on the social costs of marijuana use.

“Some people are going to use it, and they are not going to be OK,” he said.

Dennis Bardy, a former Richmond village trustee, said the concerns over the dispensary’s proximity to schools or reputation as a gateway drug was overblown.

“The number one gateway drug is alcohol,” Bardy said, adding that when a pizzeria serving alcohol is placed near a school, not one person came to the Village Board meetings to complain.

What Zachary Zises and the dispensary will bring to Richmond is money, Bardy said.

Wardanian agreed. Richmond, she said, may get “a quarter of our budget from a voluntary tax. It is not even people in the state who will be paying our bills.”

After the meeting, Zachary Zises thanked Richmond for reaching out to him. A village summer intern who had finished her work one day was asked to call “high-end marijuana dispensaries in Illinois,” Wardanain said. Zises was the first dispensary operator to return that call, she said.

Zises, who lives in Evanston, has said he had never heard of Richmond before that phone call. But its location, with major north-south and east-west roads on the way to Wisconsin, made business sense.

“I saw this as an opportunity,” he said, and noted that like his two dispensaries in Chicago, he plans to work with his business neighbors.

If 280E Prairie Ridge LLC has a “halo effect” and brings other businesses to Richmond, “that would be awesome,” Zises said. “We will help each other whenever possible.”