southtownstar
PROPER 
Weather Updates

Kadner: Company seeks to open marijuana store in Oak Forest

A LaGrange-based company wants open medical marijuandispensary this vacant building 15300 Cicero Ave. In Oak Forest.  | Phil Kadner/Sun-Times

A LaGrange-based company wants to open a medical marijuana dispensary in this vacant building at 15300 Cicero Ave., In Oak Forest. | Phil Kadner/Sun-Times Media

storyidforme: 71388706
tmspicid: 25110198
fileheaderid: 12658009

Updated: September 3, 2014 4:56PM



Oak Forest’s planning and zoning commission tonight will consider granting a request to open a medical marijuana dispensary in a vacant two-story building at 15300 Cicero Ave.

The building is just south of Oak Forest Bowl, next to a dentist’s office and about a half-block from homes.

The request for the special-use zoning permit is from H2D Solutions LLC, which lists an address of 106 W. Burlington Ave., La Grange. The name of the “agent” for H2D Solutions on the Illinois secretary of state’s corporate filing report is listed as Richard A. Duffin, an attorney whose law office is at the same address.

Other members of the H2D Solutions filing are listed as Grace Hong Duffin and Matthew Hammoudeh, and their addresses are listed as the same as H2D and the law office.

In 2010, Gov. Pat Quinn named Grace Hong Duffin as acting secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services, although she since has been replaced. She also was chief of staff at the department before being named acting secretary and spent eight years as a Cook County assistant state’s attorney.

Born in South Korea, Hong Duffin migrated to the U.S. in 1975 and served as senior policy advisor for the governor’s office and chief administrative law judge for the Illinois Department of Public Health, according to a news release from the governor’s office at the time of her appointment as acting secretary of the human services department.

Calls to Richard Duffin’s law office were not returned Tuesday.

As I reported last month, Oak Forest’s planning commission approved an amendment to the city zoning ordinance to allow a medical marijuana dispensary on Cicero Avenue.

Under Illinois’ Compassionate Cannabis Pilot Program Act, 22 cultivation centers and 60 dispensaries are allowed throughout the state. Under the law, each dispensary district consists of three townships. One district includes Bremen, Orland and Rich townships. Oak Forest is in Bremen Township.

Medical marijuana dispensaries, under the law, are not allowed to grow marijuana plants but must buy their supplies from a designated cultivation center.

While some suburbs, such as Oak Lawn and Orland Park, have indicated little interest in having a marijuana dispensary, many others, including Oak Forest, seem intrigued by the possibilities.

In the 23 states that have legalized medical marijuana, some dispensaries have grossed more than $20 million per year.

Under the Illinois law, among the medical conditions that qualify a person for medical marijuana are cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C., ALS, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis, to name a few. Only physicians can write prescriptions for medical marijuana, and they may not receive payment from a dispensary or cultivation center and are not allowed to have any economic interest in such facilities.

Dispensaries may not be within 1,000 feet of a preschool, elementary school or day care center and may not dispense more than 21/2 ounces to a patient or caregiver in a 14-day period. Dispensaries are prohibited from having drive-through lanes, which for some reason strikes me as funny.

Oak Forest, which has faced challenges in rebuilding its commercial strips on Cicero Avenue and 159th Street, recently approved a large shooting range on the site of the old Community Motors building, 5900 W. 159th St.

The owners of the range claim it will be an elite gun club containing six long-range and 22 short-range shooting bays, along with a bow range, training simulator, full-service gunsmith shop and private member lounges.

I have few concerns about the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries or cultivation centers. It seems to me they will be tightly regulated, with criminal background checks required of all owners and employees.

My guess is that local taverns pose more of a threat to the peace and safety of the average community.

While 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, selling and using marijuana remains a criminal offense under federal law. As a result, there are no federal regulations on the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana.

In Massachusetts, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents have been accused of visiting the homes and offices of physicians involved with medical marijuana dispensaries and allegedly have threatened some with criminal prosecution.

Earlier this year, the U.S. House, which is controlled by Republicans, voted to prohibit federal agents from busting medical marijuana operations that are legal under state law. As far as I can tell, the U.S. Senate has yet to act.

When nearly half the states in the nation recognize the need to legalize medical marijuana, it doesn’t make sense to have the DEA and Justice Department enforcing federal laws that are outdated and lack public support.

Not since the days of Prohibition has this country seen such a split between the law of the land and private citizens.

As for Oak Forest citizens, the debate over medical marijuana will come to their back yard at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the commission hearing in the city council chambers at city hall, 15440 Central Ave.

Any action taken by the commission would have to get final approval from the city council at a future meeting.

Some day, perhaps, medical marijuana will be available at your local pharmacy, just like any prescription drug.

Why it’s not now really makes no sense at all.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.