Marijuana dispensary at former Rainforest Cafe in River North gets zoning approvalPosted by On

A controversial plan to open a fifth marijuana dispensary within Chicago’s River North neighborhood won approval early Saturday, despite residents’ concerns it would turn the area into a “pot district.”

The Zoning Board of Appeals awarded a special-use permit to PTS Corp. and Bio-Pharm LLC to open a recreational cannabis store in the former Rainforest Cafe at Clark and Ohio streets. The project still needs state approval.

The approval came after a daylong meeting that lasted until 1 a.m., and a four-hour hearing on the dispensary alone that one board member called a record.

The board also approved a permit to former Alderman and state representative Rickey Hendon and his children to open a Green Rose dispensary in the South Loop, at 1233 S. Wabash Ave., and a dispensary by High Hopes Chicago at 622-24 W. Roosevelt Road.

The rulings came just days after another Green Rose dispensary opened at 612 N. Wells Ave., and Ivy Hall Dispensary opened in Wicker Park, as the first two operating social equity weed stores.

PTS Corp. previously was rebuffed in its attempt to move its Consume Cannabis shop to the site from its location in Norwood Park, because state law prohibits new dispensaries from locating within 1,500 feet of existing pot stores. But PTS since teamed up and reapplied with Bio-Pharm LLC, a new social equity license holder.

Social equity companies, generally defined by state law as having a majority owner who’s had a prior low-level cannabis arrest or…

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