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A cannabis dispensary that was proposed to be built just south of the Wisconsin state border in Richmond, Illinois, is on hold for now after the developer pulled his plans for the location he originally proposed. 

At a meeting Thursday, Aug. 18, residents expressed a lot of concern about the proposed location. After hearing those concerns, Zachary Zises, owner of 280E LLC, the company proposing to build the dispensary, told the Richmond Plan Commission on Monday, Aug. 22, that he was pulling his plans.

However, Richmond Village Clerk Karla Thomas said the developer has indicated he is still interested in opening a dispensary in Richmond. 

“He is still interested in Richmond and is going to look at other properties,” Thomas said. 

Overall, residents in attendance at the Aug. 18 listening session said they were not opposed to a dispensary coming to Richmond, saying they welcomed the new tax revenue. With a 3% local sales tax going to the village, Zises is projecting that the village will receive at least a quarter of a million dollars annually.

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But, while residents were fine with a dispensary, they did not want the proposed location for it at 5500 Swallow Ridge Drive. 

Location concerns 

The proposed location was off a busy stretch of Highway 12 just south of the Wisconsin state line, right where Burlington Road branches off the highway, the intersection where drivers either head toward Genoa City and Lake Geneva or toward Twin Lakes.

Residents said the intersection needs a stoplight before the dispensary is built. Without it, a fatality will happen there, residents said.

“You could easily go someplace else. If you are out for pot, edibles, whatever it is, you are going to go to that business park … where there wouldn’t be any congestion at all,” said Dan Sullivan, who stated he is not against the dispensary, just the location.

Richmond officials said they have reached out to the state and unfortunately Illinois’ most recent study shows a stoplight is not warranted at this time.

Residents who live in a subdivision behind where the dispensary was proposed, said currently their subdivision only has one way in and one way out.

They were concerned customers visiting the dispensary would get turned around and end up driving through their subdivision with only one way out. They were also concerned people were going to buy marijuana from the dispensary and then park in their subdivision and smoke or eat the marijuana because it would be an easy place to park.

Abigail Quentrall-Quezada, who lives in Richmond, said she was concerned about Wisconsin residents coming to Illinois and consuming the products before returning back to Wisconsin.

“They cannot cross the line with your product. Genoa City Police could be right there waiting for them so these people cannot return to their home to open their purchase. They may well just (say), ‘There is a nice quiet neighborhood. I’m just going to park up quietly there in the back, consume my product and then return home.’”

Zises said they haven’t seen that behavior in other areas where there are dispensaries.

“I know in general there can be concerns about the kinds of people who go into dispensaries. I hope that has been dispelled. … In general the people who are coming into a state legal cannabis dispensary are choosing to pay two to three times as much as they can find it on the streets of Chicago at least,” Zises said. 

“The point is the people who buy legally generally are more affluent and more interested in abiding by the law than your average person,” Zises said.

He said no one will be able to smoke or consume marijuana on the dispensary property, but “when someone leaves my property, I have no authority to do anything.”

A plan to target Wisconsin 

Recreational marijuana is legal in Illinois. However, in Wisconsin it remains illegal for people to possess, smoke or consume marijuana. People can be criminally charged for it in Wisconsin.

At an informational meeting on Aug. 18, Zises told Richmond residents that even though marijuana is illegal in Wisconsin, he recognizes that the value of the Richmond location comes from knowing people from Wisconsin will be crossing the border to buy marijuana.

“To be perfectly honest the value of the location isn’t because I think all of you guys are coming in to buy weed, I think it’s because everyone across the border in Wisconsin where they cannot buy it is coming across,” Zises said at a meeting with Richmond residents. “I don’t want to pretend anything else. That is really why I think this facility is going to perform incredibly well.”

People with a Wisconsin ID will be able to buy marijuana at the dispensary, however, they will not be able to buy as much as those with Illinois state IDs, Zises said.

The store that was proposed would have sold a large variety of cannabis products from cannabis flowers, which some call buds, to pre-rolled joints, edibles and cannabis vapes.  

Zises’ company 280E LLC is owned and operated by Dispensary 33. Dispensary 33 currently operates two other dispensaries in Illinois — one in Andersonville and one in the West Loop. 

The name 280E LLC is a reference to Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code that prohibits taxpayers who are engaged in the business of trafficking certain controlled substances, including marijuana, from deducting typical business expenses associated with those activities. 

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