Acreage Holdings is preparing to open a new Nature's Care dispensary in Chicago's West Loop. (From Acreage Holdings video)

Nine months into legal recreational weed in the Land of Lincoln, dispensaries struggle to secure zoning in Chicago as greener options are emerging beyond city limits.

Nature’s Care scheduled to open Chicago location today 

New York-based cannabis corporation Acreage Holdings is scheduled to open a Nature’s Care dispensary in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. 

The publicly-traded company, which includes former U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner and former Prime Minister of Canada Brian Mulroney on its board of directors, opened its first Illinois dispensary in suburban Rolling Meadows in February. 

In March, Acreage secured a Community Benefits Agreement with social equity advocates committing the company hiring 75% staff from communities disproportionately impaired from previous cannabis criminalization and to invest 10 percent of net profits with community organizations.

Competition for cannabis commerce rights in the dining and entertainment mecca just west of downtown Chicago is fierce. Earlier this month, Wheaton-based cannabis corporation NuEra (formerly NuMed), secured zoning approval for a West Loop location. The company operates a Chicago location in the Lincoln Park neighborhood as well as locations in East Peoria and Urbana. Earlier this year, NuEra acquired a cultivation facility in Hillcrest from Chicago-based multi-state cannabis operator PharmaCann. 

Dispensary 33, Chicago’s first medical marijuana retailer, based in the North Side’s Andersonville neighborhood, is seeking zoning approval for its second location just down the block from NuMed’s new location. Bryan Zises, a principal with the company, told the Chicago Tribune that if the company does not receive zoning, “we’ll lick our wounds and we’ll go to the suburbs.” 

More burning in burbs

Multiple executives and owners of cannabis operators in Illinois tell Grown In that zoning challenges in multiple Chicago neighborhoods are complicating efforts to open additional retail locations within city limits. Investing in suburban locations, at least right now, offers a path of least resistance. 

Chicago-based Cresco Labs this month announced plans to open its 10th Illinois location in Far West Suburban Naperville after months of trying to secure zoning for an additional location in Chicago, where it already operates North Side locations in River North and Wrigleyville. 

Phoenix-based 4Front Ventures announced this week that it plans to open its next Illinois dispensary in South Suburban Calumet City, a couple miles from the border of Indiana, where cannabis sales and consumption of all varieties remain illegal. 4Front currently operates one of its Mission Dispensaries near the Indiana border in the South Chicago neighborhood.4Front this month also announced the sale of three Maryland dispensaries for $5.5 million to Ethos Cannabis, a cannabis corporation with operations in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Massachusetts. Pharmacann founder and former CEO Teddy Scott is the CEO of Ethos, which according to has raised $90 million from Philadelphia-area investors.

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Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.