Just two minutes before the Monday grand opening of Logan Square's first medical marijuana dispensary, co-owner Doug Marks steps out of the space's Milwaukee Avenue entrance. The entryway is easy to miss—the word "moca," short for Modern Cannabis, is stamped on the door in bright yellow, pink, and blue, but the words nearly blend in with the mass of posters and graffiti that dominates the adjacent wall.
A slow trickle of people would follow, but it was hard to tell from the outside: anyone without a medical marijuana card—including the media—were barred from entering the dispensary's main floor.
"We don't want it to feel like it's a prison when you're inside, but. . . it does require a couple of steps to make sure you can be in there," Marks said. "It's more secure than a bank, essentially—anyone can walk into a bank."
Soon after Governor Bruce Rauner took office last winter, he sat down for a meeting with state rep Kelly Cassidy. She says Rauner asked if she would support his "turnaround agenda," a series of probusiness proposals that would, among other things, restrict union organizing and worker's compensation. Cassidy is one of the most liberal members of the General Assembly, and she says she explained to the Republican governor that her far-north-side district wouldn't support his "turnaround" plans.
But Cassidy noted that the two were of like minds on another issue: criminal justice reform. Cassidy wanted to ease penalties for marijuana possession, which lands thousands of African-American men in jail and prison each year, and Rauner had campaigned on his own promise to reduce the prison population.
"I had a very good conversation with him" about criminal justice, Cassidy says. "I told him, 'That's our sweet spot.'"
Preckwinkle wanted to get the word out that Cook County officials have worked together to reform the jail and criminal justice system, which she often calls "the intersection of racism and poverty."
But she also doesn't want to waste any precious green—that is, money—to target people caught with small amounts of marijuana. Plus, she can't afford to be left out as the politics of pot blow past her less than a year before she faces a potential reelection fight.
And so it was that the county's top law enforcement official announced Monday that her office will stop prosecuting people picked up with an ounce or less of cannabis.