Strip club owner gets license to sell medical marijuana

(CHICAGO) A strip club owner was approved by the state Friday to sell medical marijuana from a West Loop storefront, the Sun-Times is reporting.

The approval of Perry Mandera’s Custom Strains came Friday, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced in a news release. The approval means Mandera, the owner of VIP’s A Gentleman’s Club, can open a dispensary in a vacant building at 1105 W. Fulton St.; the business will cater to military veterans.

Mandera had hoped to grow marijuana at 12233 South Avenue O but has not yet been approved to do so.

Also approved Friday was a license for a Curative Health, a dispensary at 4758 N. Milwaukee Ave. in the Jefferson Park neighborhood. Curative Health, operated by Columbia Care, is part-owned by Nicholas Vita, a former Goldman Sachs executive who has opened legal marijuana businesses in other states, but has faced lawsuits along the way.

Businesses were initially put on hold for further review without explanation by regulators with the administration of former Gov. Pat Quinn. On Friday, after review, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration announced they’d been approved.

The Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals signed off on both businesses in November.

Last year, shortly before launching his bid for mayor, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia agreed to serve on the advisory committee for Mandera in his effort to win a state license for a medical marijuana dispensary.

Garcia said Friday that he agreed to be on the adversary panel after Brendan Shiller, Mandera’s attorney in the bid for the marijuana license, assured him the dispensary would hire “people of color” and serve veterans and low-income families.

“Those things were appealing to me,” Garcia said. “I don’t know that much about the whole [medical marijuana] industry.”

Garcia said he does not know Mandera, but added, “I’ve known Brendan since he was a little boy.”

Brendan Shiller did not return calls seeking comment. His law office manager said Friday he was not available because he’s on medical leave.

Andrew Sharp, campaign manager for Garcia, said Garcia was never paid by the company and was no longer on the advisory panel.

Rauner earlier this week awarded 18 medical marijuana farming licenses and 52 selling licenses. Rauner’s administration said issues were found during a review of the licensing process used by Quinn’s administration.

Quinn staffers, however, have repeatedly said applications were subjected to a blind review process — without regard to applicants’ identities.


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