Marijuana dispensary to soon open in downtown Galena

GALENA, Ill. — A marijuana dispensary soon will open in Galena, potentially as early as next month.

PharmaCann, which operates dispensaries under the brand name Verilife, will open a dispensary selling both medical and recreational marijuana in a former bank at 115 Perry St.

“Verilife is thrilled to be joining the downtown Galena business community,” the company said in a statement. “We have been working closely with local and state officials over the past several months to meet and exceed regulatory and safety standards and are now targeting an opening date in late February 2021.”

The Galena dispensary will be Verilife’s fifth Illinois location. The company sells a wide variety of both recreational and medical cannabis products.

City building official Jonathan Miller said the more-than-$1.5 million renovation started after Thanksgiving.

“They pretty much 100% gutted the building,” he said. “It’s a complete remodel. They’re just kind of using the shell. Outside of the vault, the last time we went through for an inspection I think only half a wall was left from the original bank building.”

City Administrator Mark Moran said City Council members approved a city ordinance allowing for a dispensary after Illinois legalized adult-use recreational marijuana on Jan. 1, 2020. Anyone at least 21 years old can buy and possess up to 30 grams of cannabis.

State law prohibits dispensaries from operating within 1,500 feet of each other, which then limits the number of possible downtown dispensaries to one. The Galena ordinance further limits dispensary locations, as the business cannot be within 250 feet of a residential property or 1,000 feet within a school or day care facility. And it must be on a lot zoned as a commercial or industrial property.

Another company received a special-use permit from the Galena Zoning Board of Appeals to start a dispensary at 115 Perry St. about a year ago, Moran said, but there were state-level delays in considering their and other applications.

Meanwhile, Moran said, PharmaCann already had a license to sell recreational marijuana, as companies with a license to sell medical cannabis automatically were given a recreational one as well. PharmaCann, which has medical and recreational licenses in eight states, was able to sign a lease agreement and start work inside the Galena site.

Moran noted that council members also elected to have a 3% excise tax on cannabis products, on top of the 2% sales tax.

“It’s still quite an unknown,” Moran said on the potential revenue for the city off cannabis sales. “There’s not a lot of history on revenues in Illinois. There are pretty strong sales in Chicago. … It has potential to be a new, fairly significant revenue source for the city, depending on sales.”

Mayor Terry Renner said many look at dispensaries as a source of revenue, which might work well for the city for several years.

He expressed concerns, however, about how having a business legally selling cannabis could affect residents, especially if people don’t follow the usage guidelines in place. When the ordinance allowing cannabis businesses in the city first was voted on by the council, Renner was the only one who voted against it.

“It’s fine — it’s a business,” Renner said. “I’ll have to tolerate it and go along with it, but I’m not in favor of it.”

Both the PharmaCann and Verilife websites list eight job openings for the Galena dispensary. Verilife representative Erik Betz said the number of employees could increase later based on dispensary sales.

Since Galena is near the borders of Iowa and Wisconsin, Betz stressed that residents of other states must be aware of the limits and regulations of buying from the dispensary. It’s a felony offense to cross into Iowa or Wisconsin with cannabis, even if it was purchased legally. People also must consume or use cannabis products inside their residences, since Verilife stores do not have approval for product use inside.

However, Betz said the company is excited by the opportunity to stretch their business closer to the Mississippi River.

“Galena is going to be our farthest west dispensary in Illinois,” he said. “Typically, all our dispensaries are located around the Chicago area, but after seeing the benefits to our medical patients and our recreational patients, we’d like to grow and continue our business moving around.”

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