The family-run Midwest Compassion Center is succeeding with a mantra of compassion, community, and compliance.
When Illinois officials drafted the state’s medical marijuana laws, they elected to award dispensary applications based on merit. The standards were high. It took Midwest Compassion Center a year to fulfill all the requirements. Applications were scored on a variety of criteria including a thorough investigation of backgrounds, safety and security, standard operating procedures, support from the local community, demonstration of adequate capitalization and reasonable financial projections, and a category called “bonus criteria.”
“Our application was turned in to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations — which is a separate entity from the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture — and scoring took approximately six months. We received the sixth-highest score out of 211 applicants,” noted co-owner William Hollander.
The community has been very supportive of the shop, he said. MCC hosted a series of educational events to address the community’s concerns. In addition, the center organized a community outreach team whose sole focus is to attend local fairs, support groups, and festivals.
“We’ve participated in events with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, the Illinois Motorcycle Freedom Run, and Delnor Hospital’s Fibromyalgia Support Group, among many others,” said Hollander.
“The most common concerns and question we hear from patients are: ‘Is cannabis a good treatment option for my condition?’ ‘How do I have the medical marijuana conversation with my doctor?’ ‘If I am pulled over for a minor traffic violation, will I automatically be suspected of driving under the influence?’” said Hollander.
Our patient count has nearly doubled each month since we opened and we expect the rate of growth to escalate with the addition of several new changes to the physician certification process.
– William Hollander, co-founder
The 2,200-square-foot space was built to create an environment both comfortable and functional. “Since cannabis comes directly from the earth, we mirror this by utilizing earth-tone colors that are warm and soothing, akin to a Starbucks,” said Hollander. “The overall design slants toward mid-century modern but includes several unique elements such as our strain cloud—which is depicted as a vinyl graphic on our wall—and large monitors in the showroom that visually display our product offerings.”
Robert Kirk of Group A Architects. “He has extensive experience in commercial and retail designs, especially in and around the nearby counties,” Hollander said.
“We were fortunate to attract a very large number of applicants for employment,” Hollander said. “We had the luxury of selecting those who we felt were the best of the best. Applicants were expected to have a college degree, related work experience, a high level of compassion, technical knowledge, problem-solving and team-building skills, and a deep passion for cannabis. We promote cross-training. Budtending is just one role our employees take on. They must be willing to accept new challenges and have the flexibility to adapt in all situations.”
“Our patient count has nearly doubled each month since we opened,” Hollander said. “Furthermore, we expect the rate of growth to escalate with the addition of several new qualifying conditions and changes to the physician certification process for the recommendation of medical cannabis.”
“We currently carry approximately ninety different products from seven different cultivators,” Hollander said. “As one might expect, flower is our most popular product and accounts for over 60 percent of sales.”
“Our inventory is tracked in real-time through our management software,” said Hollander. “Inventory is reconciled on a daily basis, and we utilize reporting systems and customized storage solutions to eliminate manual errors. Typically, one or two of our managers perform inventory reconciliations and audits, but all agents are equipped to manage inventory and track it in real-time.”
“Banking is a challenge in Illinois,” noted Hollander. “There are few banks willing to work with medical cannabis businesses because cannabis is still federally illegal. We are fortunate to have a relationship with a local bank, but we are continuously seeking alternatives as banks can change their procedures at any time and close accounts.
“We are able to maintain a checking account with our bank, and we handle payroll like most all other employers,” he continued. “In the past, banks have implemented significant monthly fees to manage accounts of cannabis businesses. These fees can make banking quite costly and force business owners to rethink their cash management strategies. We are hopeful that in due time banking laws will change, and we will have access to the same banking resources as traditional businesses.”
MCC’s Three Keys to Success
- Product quality: The center only purchases and distributes products that meet rigorous standards, by affirming strict adherence to high levels of quality assurance, by investing in research and development, and by soliciting and listening to feedback from patients, medical practitioners, staff, and researchers.
- Patient wellness: MCC offers a welcoming, personalized, compassionate, informative, and respectful experience and always provides a variety of affordable cannabis products.
- Ongoing education and outreach: Staff members use a variety of means to provide relevant, up-to-date information about the benefits of medical cannabis to patients, caregivers and the general public.
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