River North marijuana dispensary debate heats up

The race is on to become the first dispensary in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, but not all residents of the popular entertainment and business district are thrilled about the idea of marijuana being sold there.

Cresco Labs, which owns the Sunnyside dispensaries in Lakeview & Elmwood Park, is looking to open up a branch on Clark in River North. 

Its leadership team did a presentation to the community, touting its business model, safety measures it's taking, including armed security guards, and efforts to control crowds.

Cresco is looking to open a dispensary at what used to be the Baton Club at 436 North Clark.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, it showed renderings of what that would look like, touting itself as “the Whole Foods of cannabis,” and said two armed security guards would be on-site at all times. 

However, given recent violence in this neighborhood, and what some neighbors describe as an out of control bar scene, about a dozen people voiced their concerns about recreational marijuana landing in River North. 

As of right now, four competing dispensaries have applied to open up shop there within about a quarter-mile radius. Cresco's presentation didn't leave everyone convinced.

“I’m just concerned that we're going to have potheads walking around and I’m not saying there's anything wrong with it, I did it back in the 70s myself,” said Trish Keporos. 

Tuesday night was just the first of a series of meetings.

On Wednesday night, a different cannabis company will be presenting to the neighbors of River North.