Before spring returns next year, at least one medical marijuana vendor could be operating in Naperville.
The recently launched partnership 3C Compassionate Care Centers is waiting for the state to issue license applications for the 60 marijuana dispensaries — including three in DuPage County — that will be permitted to operate in Illinois under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, which took effect Jan. 1. 3C plans to operate in a commercial space at 1701 Quincy Drive.
“We’re obviously preparing well in advance, because there is so much that has to be done,” said Traci Fernandez, who with her husband Hugo and two others founded Naperville-based 3C.
Fernandez said the business aims to bring appropriate relief to those whose health conditions qualify them for prescribed medical marijuana, and to fund research into curing many of the debilitating illnesses for which the drug is now a permitted treatment.
In addition to devising a detailed security plan, the group must see to such things as choosing a way to track its distribution of prescribed product, and establishing a system for inventory control.
“We have to be very adept at that, and we’ll have cameras installed at various locations throughout our building,” Fernandez said.
She comes to her pending new role from a personal place. Six years ago, on Labor Day weekend, “just the oddest thing” transpired in Fernandez’ life, leaving her forever changed.
A healthy and physically fit 37-year-old mother of two, she awoke in the middle of the night with chest pain that deepened over the following hours into badly hindered mobility, and by morning had become full paralysis from her chest down. She would later learn that she had contracted transverse myelitis, a rare inflammatory disease that affects the spinal cord, and for which there is not yet a known cure.
“It’s very similar to an attack of MS,” said Fernandez, who lives in Batavia.
Although her paralysis qualifies her to be prescribed the treatment she and her business partners intend to offer through the Quincy Drive site, Fernandez said that as a dispensary owner, she will be ineligible to use medical marijuana. More than 40 illnesses and other medical conditions entitle patients for the medication, among them cancer, HIV, AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Crohn’s disease, traumatic brain injury, and many others — including MS.
In preparation to open what could be the city’s first dispensary, Fernandez and her husband also have visited sites elsewhere, including Colorado, which has legalized marijuana use for the general population, and Rhode Island, where medical marijuana is being prescribed and dispensed now.
Fernandez said city officials have been supportive of the plans. City Councilman Paul Hinterlong said he met with Hugo Fernandez, and he thinks the dispensary will function as intended.
“They’ve got a whole huge litany of stuff they have to do for the state. That’s the biggest thing,” Hinterlong said Friday.
The council has set zoning regulations identifying areas where dispensaries and cultivation centers for medical marijuana can be located, so 3C won’t need to go before the city for formal zoning clearance before opening the facility. Allison Laff, planning operations manager, said staff have reviewed the proposed location, and the company has submitted the mandatory affidavit pledging its compliance with all legal requirements.
“Because a dispensary is permitted by right at 1701 Quincy (subject to compliance with all zoning requirements), there is no formal ‘proposal’ that is required to be submitted to the city and no (Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council) approval needed,” Laff said in an email Thursday. “However, if 3C Compassionate Care is approved by the state for this location, they will need to seek necessary building permits prior to occupancy.”
In addition to Traci and Hugo Fernandez, the other founding partners in 3C include business development expert Kathy Tucker and Judge Robert Livas, Traci Fernandez’s father. Livas presides in Will County’s 12th Judicial Circuit Court, where he directs the felony division, and he plans to retire in November, his daughter said.
She said it’s likely the state will issue a license for the dispensary in late fall, and then 3C will await delivery of their products.
The company also has been set up as a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Once they are open, the partners plan to donate 25 percent of their profits, Fernandez said, with 20 percent going to research toward cures for assorted neurologic diseases, and the other 5 percent being funneled to local causes. Fernandez said the beneficiary could be a local veterans organization, or perhaps another agency that assists people who qualify for medical marijuana but can’t afford to pay for it.
Hinterlong isn’t worried about problems arising from the dispensary.
“I think everybody kind of looks like it as a drug that’s going to be out on the streets or something. That’s just not the case,” he said, noting that access to the dispensary will be tightly limited. “I don’t anticipate any problems.”
While he understands some residents are apprehensive about the change, Hinterlong suggested they might do better to focus their concern on the many pharmacies scattered throughout the city.
“Those are full of a lot worse drugs than marijuana, so I don’t really know what all the uproar is,” he said. “A place locally for our residents that need that medicine, I think, is a plus.”
Meanwhile, there could be a second dispensary in business in Naperville before very long. Hinterlong said he has spoken with a man who owns property on which he plans to open a distribution site for medical marijuana, and Laff confirmed that the individual has been in contact with the city.
“We have spoken to another group about a potential dispensary that would require PZC/CC approval in order to move forward,” Laff said. “However, they have not yet submitted a petition to do so.”Tags: Marijuana