Ambrose Jackson, chairman and CEO of the 1937 Group dispensary company, speaks to Evergreen Park residents during a packed hearing Monday night. He is joined by attorney Sonia Antolec and Jim Reilly, chief development officer for the company. (Photo by Joe Boyle)

Ambrose Jackson, chairman and CEO of the 1937 Group dispensary company, speaks to Evergreen Park residents during a packed hearing Monday night. He is joined by attorney Sonia Antolec and Jim Reilly, chief development officer for the company. (Photo by Joe Boyle)

Capacity crowd speaks out against Evergreen Park dispensary

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By Joe Boyle

Additional chairs had to be brought out to seat an overflow crowd of Evergreen Park residents who attended a meeting April 15 regarding a proposed cannabis dispensary for the village.

And many who were in attendance voiced their opposition to having a dispensary in Evergreen Park. Most of the people cited safety, traffic congestion and crime as major reasons for their opposition during the public hearing at the Evergreen Park Village Hall.

The 1937 Group — named after the year in which the U.S. government outlawed marijuana via the Marijuana Tax Act — representatives gave a slide presentation on what they believe would be the merits of having a cannabis dispensary in Evergreen Park.

This is the first minority-owned vertically integrated cannabis company in Illinois. The company was awarded an Illinois retail, craft grow cultivation, and cannabis transportation license in March of 2022.

The guest speakers were Ambrose Jackson, chairman and CEO of The 1937 Group; former Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Sonia Antolec; and Jim Reilly, chief development officer.

Antolec, a legal officer for The 1937 Group, said her father had cancer and her Iraq war veteran brother became addicted to opioids. She said that cannabis provided relief for both and believes that the company will not only provide a valuable service but will contribute to the community.

“I’m passionate about what cannabis can do,” Antolec said.

Antolec cited statistics that said most cannabis users are college-educated, have a higher income, and over 51% of the clients are women.

“We go above and beyond to the community,” Jackson said. “We support mental health and mental health awareness.”

Trustees were the first who had questions about the company. Trustee James McQuillan wondered about security plans. Jackson responded that security will be available during all hours seven days a week. The facility would be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day.

The public hearing was held before the scheduled village board meeting. The original ordinance of three years ago called for future consideration for a dispensary within the boundaries of 91st Street to 95th and Western Avenue. However, no one came forward to operate a dispensary within these boundaries.

During the public hearing last month, consideration for a dispensary site within 91st Street to 94th and Kedzie Avenue was approved. The 1937 Group officials submitted an application for the site at 9122 S. Kedzie on March 24.

Mayor Kelly Burke reminded residents that the hearing was designed as a fact-finding session in which they can ask questions and find out about more about the company. All suggestions and criticisms would be taken into account, the mayor said.

Burke made it clear that no decision on the fate of The 1937 Group’s proposal would be decided at the hearing.

Residents then began asking questions, many of them flatly stating that they oppose having a cannabis dispensary in Evergreen Park. Reilly insisted that the facility would have ample security and at least one armed guard will be at the dispensary each day.

Jackson, after some protests, mentioned that they are not required to have armed guards but at the insistence of the public they would make sure they would be present at an Evergreen Park site.

Trustee Mark Marzullo asked what annual revenue amounts would be generated at the dispensary for Evergreen Park? A specific amount was not mentioned. However, 1937 Group officials said it could be as much as $375,000 yearly. Evergreen Park would be provided with a percentage of revenue from the 3% state tax that would come from the dispensary.

Funds generated from the dispensary would go for infrastructure improvements and street repairs for the village, Burke said.

Some trustees voiced displeasure with the presentation, stating that the officials lacked concrete responses to security concerns, traffic woes, and if a fence should be put up along the perimeter of the building since residents live nearby.

Jackson said deliveries of the products, which are produced at a facility in Broadview, would take place about three days a week. He said the dispensary would have about 20 to 25 employees, with about 10 working a specific shift.

One resident asked about burglaries and Jackson said there have been none. A burglary did occur at a dispensary but that was considered an inside job, he said.

“There may not be any problems at the dispensary but trouble could occur in another area,” said a woman who is a retired law enforcement officer. “Now I have to worry about someone coming in here and smoking a blunt. I moved from Chicago and we don’t need that here. This is a middle-class neighborhood.”

Further complaints amplified those concerns. The 1937 Group officials again said the facility would be carefully monitored and safe, and they would be good neighbors.

Residents further complained that they were not informed about the dispensary proposal and were unaware until petitions were passed out. A front page story did appear in the April 4 edition of The Reporter about the proposal.

However, there were several residents who did not have a problem with having a dispensary in the village.

“I think people really need to visit a dispensary,” one woman said. “There is no one hanging around a dispensary. It’s mostly older people going there. Younger people can’t afford to go there.”

“I’m a 48-year resident of the village and a business owner,” one woman said. “I welcome the business and the tax revenue. This brings in a lot more business.”

One resident asked what the police think about having a dispensary? Burke responded that officers will be monitoring other municipalities and getting feedback from those communities.

Nearby dispensaries are located in Alsip, Crestwood, Chicago Ridge, Justice, and Worth. The mayor said that currently no crime or specific disturbances have been linked to dispensaries in those communities.

A couple of residents said that a dispensary should not be part of Evergreen Park’s culture, regardless of how much revenue it generates.

The 1937 Group’s first approved operation is located in downstate Tilton. Another 1937 Group dispensary has been approved for Park Forest. The dispensary will be opening there this month.

Antolec was asked if she wanted a dispensary where she lives? Antolec said that she lives two blocks from a 1937 Group dispensary in Brookfield. That location site was approved in March of 2022.

Burke added that discussion will continue on this matter. Reilly said if a dispensary is approved, it could be in operation within six months.

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