Residents From Several Wards Unite to Stop Medical Marijuana Dispensary


Say crime will spill into other wards

By Chinta Strausberg


Fearful of crime spilling into their wards if a medical marijuana dispensary sets up shop in the 10th Ward, dozens of residents met late Tuesday night at the Bethany Lutheran Church where they planned legal and social actions against several aldermen they vowed to defeat at the next election.

Residents from the newly elected 7th Ward Aldermen Greg Mitchell, 10th Ward Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza and 8th Ward Ald. Michelle Harris met to discuss filing an injunction against the city of Chicago to block the planned marijuana medical dispensary earmarked for a vacant Laundromat located in the 10th Ward at 8554 So. Commercial.

Johnny Acoff, vice president of the South Shore Garden Government Association, and his members agreed to file an injunction against the city in order to stop the approval process. The members also agreed to go down to Ald. Mitchell’s office on Monday to let him know they did not like his voting against a bill that would have given the city’s inspector general the right to monitor how aldermen spend their $1 million discretionary funding.

A member of the Association, Dalandis Neely, who is a resident of the 7th ward and a retired special agent with the Illinois State Police, said, “One of the most stressing issues affecting us is the marijuana dispensaries that are trying to pop up all throughout our areas and we’re trying to stop them.”

“The one at 8554 So. Commercial is our next target,” Neely said referring to their successful efforts in preventing Mr. Lester Hollis, an African American from opening a dispensary in the 8th Ward headed by Ald. Harris. Hollis is now trying to open one in the 10th Ward and he has the political blessing of Ald. Raza who claims she had consent from the residents.

However, Neely and other Association members said that is not true. “They come into the community and not letting the residents know. They are not having any open meetings and getting the residents feelings about it,” said Neely.

“We’re going to the Zoning Committee and stop it from happening,” Neely said. Criticizing Raza for approving the plan, Neely said, “It was the same with Ald. Harris. These aldermen are working independently of their residents. They are supposed to represent us and that is not fair. We’re going to stop it and we are going to put the aldermen out.

“Ald. Mitchell just got in there and he’s already doing shady door politics which is pretty common in Chicago, but we’re not going to stop it,” said Neely referring to several aldermen who were either appointed or elected after the conviction of Ald. Sandi Jackson.

“We have a revolving door policy in the 7th Ward aldermen. He (Mitchell) should be very aware that if he doesn’t come to the residents, he won’t be there long,” said Neely.

And as far as Raza is concern, Neely said, “We’re going to work with the 10th Ward like we worked with the 8th Ward to make sure that type of business comes into our community. We don’t want it no way near our children. “

When told Ald. Raza told reporters she did get approval from the community, Neely said, “She’s not listening to the residents because we are against it. If she wants, we’ll be against her.”

Also angry at Ald. Raza is Al Sanchez, former Chicago Streets and Sanitation Commissioner under former Mayor Richard M. Daley who was also once key leader of the Hispanic Democratic Organization (HDO). Sanchez, who was convicted for rewarding jobs to HDO members—a hiring system he had said was in place for a long time, is also angry at Raza for approving the dispensary without consulting the residents.

When told that Raza claims she did her homework and had gotten approval from the residents, Sanchez, a known and respected community organizer, said, “Really, then why doesn’t anyone know about it”?

“I just found out about this,” Sanchez said. “This is a tragic thing.” Sanchez said the community needs to be revitalized. “They want to bring a marijuana dispensary. It doesn’t make sense. That’s a down right shame. Why can’t they do something to bring the community back?

“We need jobs…. We lost the steel mill…6,000 jobs. Is that what they are going to replace these jobs with a medical marijuana dispensary? We’re going to stop this. We are not going to let this go down,” vowed Sanchez. Several members said they are being taxed without representation and they’re fighting back.

Agreeing is Fred Carrizales, a member of the Association, who said, “Our concern is that this part of the community has never been informed. No one has reached out to that part of the community to discuss this dispensary. The alderman has not reached out to that part of the community.

“Our concern is that we have children, churches, seniors, disabled individuals. It is very dangerous because you have two gangs fighting with each other. It’s something that is negative for the community,” Carrizales. He said at a meeting held at the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce three-months ago and over 200 people objected to a medical marijuana dispensary in the 10th Ward.

Rev. A.J. Bailey, a resident of the 7th Ward, urged the members to sign up to ride on the bus when they go to the Zoning Board meeting to file their injunction. “Don’t tell me blacks can’t flourish in their own neighborhood.”

Bailey urged the committee to remain united in their fight to stop the medical marijuana dispensary from coming into the 10th Ward. Members fear the resultant crime will spill out into the surrounding wards.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: