The Crusader Newspaper Group

Residents battle to keep out marijuana dispensary

By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader

Community activists from several wards have partnered with Johnny Acoff, vice president of the South Shore Garden Government Association, to take the owners of a proposed medical marijuana dispensary to court in hopes of preventing them from opening a clinic on the South Side. Residents are concerned that the marijuana dispensary will fuel crime and drugs.

Jerry Brown from the 8th Ward Accountability Coalition (EWAC), who was successful in blocking Harborside Illinois Grown Medicine from opening a similar business at 1111 E. 87th Street, on Wednesday, February 3, confirmed he has joined forces with Acoff’s organization in opposing the same company from opening a similar business at 8554 So. Commercial. The group is seeking an injunction to block the opening of this center.

Appearing on “The Strausberg Report” were Frank Bustos, owner of Frank’s Auto Rebuilders, Inc., 8557 S. Commercial Avenue, which is directly across the street from the proposed marijuana dispensary site, which is vacant, and was once a Laundromat.

Also appearing on the show was Sandra Lopez, a community activist, who is helping gather petitions to present to the City Council Zoning Board of Appeals chaired by Hyde Park businessman Jonathan Swain.

“It’s the wrong type of business,” said Bustos. “There has got to be at least 50 vacant storefronts in that area. They should be looking for small ma and pa businesses. We don’t need that. Let them go somewhere else.” He said of the dispensary that will sit in the footprint of his business.

Lopez wants the dispensary owners to put their clinic in the hospitals. “It needs to be stopped. I have four people in my family” who died from cancer. “If you think this medical marijuana is good for you and they are charging you all this money, too it’s ridiculous,” she said.  On the idea that this facility will increase employment in the community, Lopez said that is not true.

Messages left at the office of Ald. Sadlowski Garza (10th) were not returned. However, Acoff said he spoke to her. “She told me she did her research and has approved the dispensary. What research? She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

“Why don’t they put these medical marijuana dispensaries in Walgreens or CVS”? asked Acoff, a retired Chicago policeman of 31-years who used to work in the gangs unit. “Since these people have to write out prescriptions for this medicinal marijuana, why not open this clinic in Walgreens or CVS”?

Acoff, Brown, who was interviewed earlier but could not attend the TV taping due to his cancer treatment, Lopez, Bustos and Rev. Harold E. Bailey, are outraged that planes of this facility allegedly held meetings without proper notification to the community.

“I am not a resident of that community, but I am concerned,” said Acoff who owns buildings in the 10th Ward and other adjacent wards.

This location is worse than the 87th and Greenwood site that was initially supported by Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), who is not running for Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court, who later rescinded her support.

Also opposed to the dispensary is Rev. Harold E. Bailey, president of Probation Challenge. Bailey says he is adamantly opposed to the drug dispensary opening at the South Chicago site.

“I know young folk, and I know their intent to buy marijuana will not be for medical reasons. They would be acting as stakeouts for potential robberies and that is not good for the community. Like a disease, it would spread in our community.

“Why won’t they put this next to City Hall? It is apparent that things of this nature are done with the consent of the mayor,” said Bailey who was a Cook County Adult Probation officer for Judge R. Eugene Pincham for 16-years, the chairman/member of the Cook County Board of Corrections for 14-years and president/CEO of the second chance Probation Challenge program for 38 years. “I know young folks, and I know this would only entice them to commit crime,” said Bailey.

“A public school is a block-and-half away from this site. I watched the children walk right in front of this place,” said Acoff.  He, Brown and Lopez said this area is “infested” and shooting. In fact, Bustus said he witnessed two gangs engaged in a shootout not too far from that site.

Brown said the Zoning Board of Appeal gave them 45 days to appeal. “We will file an appeal citing the closeness of the public school and the violence in that area. There was no outreach done before they gave their approval. Why are they putting this in the black community”?

Efforts to reach Mr. Lester Hollis, the CEO of the proposed dispensary, failed.


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