Cannabis in Illinois

New Dispensary, 2nd Downtown, Opens In River North

The Ohio Street location is the second for MOCA

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Perhaps it is a testimonial to the now-mainstream nature of cannabis in Illinois, that the latest dispensary in Chicago is just a stone's throw from the Ohio street exit ramp into downtown.

Oh, and there's free parking.

"You get off at Ohio street and there's this big dispensary saying, 'now open,'" said MOCA's principal officer Doug Marks. "That shows there's been a lot of progress."

At least for now, the location at 216 W. Ohio is the largest in downtown Chicago. That may change when Cresco's Sunnyside location on Clark Street expands later this year.

The space is bright and modern, featuring one counter where customers pay, and a second for picking up their products.

"Right now we do primarily online ordering," Marks told NBC 5. "So people place their orders online, then reserve a specific time slot."

In what is still a largely cash-only business, MOCA does accept debit cards at the Ohio Street location. Marks points to the money challenges as the largest stumbling block to marijuana becoming a truly mainstream industry.

"I think from a public standpoint, you never see anything except people excited and as diverse a customer base as you can possibly imagine," he said. "For it to truly be accepted across the board, I think it needs to be at the point where we want to take a credit card, we can take a credit card."

For MOCA, the entry into recreational cannabis has been a challenging one. The company's first location in Logan Square was burglarized in early January, just five days after recreational pot was legalized in Illinois.

At the time, police indicated the heist, which they placed at $200,000, was an inside job. The official police report, obtained by NBC 5 Investigates, indicated the thieves entered the dispensary with a keycard, deactivated the alarm system, and took down the hard drive which stored security video before entering the basement vault using a dumbwaiter.

At a public hearing in the spring, CEO Danny Marks suggested he was suspicious of contractors outside his company.

"If one security company sets up your entire system, no matter how reputable they are and how much you pay them, there's going to be one person at least, besides you, who knows how to undo that system," Marks said.

Company officials later said they were only suggesting that someone with an intimate knowledge of security systems must have been involved. On Thursday, Doug Marks told NBC 5 the company has learned no more about the burglary from police.

"I think it's still unsolved---we're still waiting to hear if anything more comes from it, but at the moment we haven't heard any developments for a little while," he said. "Honestly, we don't have any specific suspicions of who it could be."

A spokesman for Chicago Police told NBC 5 that the investigation is classified as "suspended."

"That can happen for a variety of reasons, including detectives exhausting all leads," that spokesman said by email. "It is not a permanent status, and it can be changed if more information is made available."

Marks said his company learned several lessons from the break-in, and have applied that knowledge to the opening of the Ohio Street store.

"We're much more secure and strong now than we were then," he said.

The brick Ohio Street building was already substantial, but Marks noted the addition of decorative metal screens across the front, metal gates, and steel plates in other spots.

"Back in June, when a lot of dispensaries had break-ins during the protests, and some of the looting that took place, knock on wood, ours didn't," he noted. "We definitely made significant changes after January."

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