CHAMPAIGN — The medical cannabis dispensary set to open soon in Champaign will be managed by a well-known Illinois marijuana reform lobbyist with plans to spread the word about what this shop has to offer.
Dan Linn, executive director of the Illinois chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) has been hired as general manager for Phoenix Botanicals, the cannabis dispensary to be operated by Phoenix Farms at 1704 S. Neil St., Suite C.
Linn, 33, has led NORML, a nonprofit lobbying organization that works to legalize marijuana, since 2006.
Step one to raise awareness about medical cannabis and Phoenix Botanicals will be a free public forum from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Champaign Public Library, 200 W. Green St., he said.
The gathering is intended to answer questions about the dispensary, let the public and patients know to expect and offer more information on medical cannabis, the history of the program and how to enroll.
After Sunday, "we'll do more of these public open forums with presentations," Linn said.
He plans to connect with civic groups, patient support groups, faith-based groups, "about anybody willing to listen," he said.
One point in the education process for patients seeking a medical cannabis prescription is how to have the conversation with their doctors, Linn said.
"We've found that a lot of doctors aren't very well informed about this program," he sad. "We're just looking to make sure patients are equipped to have all the facts."
Phoenix Botanicals, which was projected to open later this month, is now more likely to open in early April, Linn said.
"We're just finishing up the construction this week," he said.
What stands between the end of construction and the state license that will allow for the opening are state inspections, then all background checks and fingerprinting for employees, Linn said.
Interviews and hiring are still underway. The dispensary will employ five to 10 people, starting out with part-time hours that could grow depending on how many patients are buying from the dispensary, Linn said.
The most important quality for prospective employees is compassion, he said, adding prospective employees could be people who have experienced care-giving for patients with some of the qualifying medical conditions for use of medical cannabis or even patients themselves.
"We're really looking for people who can be kind, compassionate," he said.
The state requires the dispensary to be open a minimum of 35 hours a week, and plans are for Phoenix Botanicals to start out being open afternoon and evening hours, Linn said.
He plans to continue running the Illinois chapter of NORML, which he does on a volunteer basis, and to keep Springfield as his home base, staying overnight in Champaign some nights, he said. Linn said he also has a consulting business called Midwest Cannabis Consulting.
"I worked two jobs when I was going to college, so I'm used to a busy schedule," he said. "This is my world for right now."
There's still no further word on the other dispensary picked to operate in state police District 10, NuMed Rx, that has been planned to operate in part of the former Blockbuster Video at 105 E. University Ave., U. District 10 includes Champaign, Coles, Douglas, Edgar, Macon, Moultrie, Piatt, Shelby and Vermilion counties.
Caprice Sweatt, CEO of Medical Cannabis Outreach, the organization working with the owners of Phoenix Botanicals on its opening, said the low number of patients enrolled in the state's medical cannabis pilot program is making it a "scary market" for anyone getting into the business.
The current patient count is "ridiculously low," she said, partly because the state is backlogged on application approvals.
As of the last update March 2, the Illinois Department of Public Health says it's approved about 5,000 patients out of 6,300 who have applied since it began accepting applications last September.