Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-12-13



First of LGBTQ+-owned dispensaries set to open in Northalsted
By Tatiana Walk-Morris

This article shared 11794 times since Mon Apr 1, 2024
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Since 1970, 3340 N Halsted St. had been the home of the Townhall Pub, the beloved cash-only dive bar known for its tasty drinks and friendly staff. But after Townhall's former owner William Bucholtz passed away from COVID-19 in 2021, the pub closed down. Now, about three years later, a new business is set to open the space again for business—this time as a cannabis dispensary.

In the coming weeks, the Sway dispensary will become a new cannabis dispensary co-owned by entrepreneur Kevin Hauswirth (a one-time Windy City Times 30 Under 30 honoree), LGBTQ+ activists (and Sidetrack owners) Art Johnston and Jose "Pepe" Peña, cannabis policy advocate Edie Moore and other co-owners. Located in the heart of Northalsted, the Sway dispensary will be the first of three new locations, Moore told Windy City Times.

Peña planted the seed for a cannabis dispensary decades ago, Johnston recalled in an interview with Windy City Times owner Tracy Baim.

"I remember clearly in 1973," Johnston said. "One day Pep said to me, 'Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could make a living selling marijuana rather than alcohol?' He was a bartender, and we both laughed at that. And now here we are all these years later.

Hauswirth met Johnston and Peña doing political and LGBTQ organizing. He went on to produce a documentary about the two iconic LGBTQ+ activists, which debuted in 2021. Moore and Hauswirth met working on social equity advocacy around the passage of Illinois cannabis legalization law. Moore who founded the first chapter of the cannabis policy and advocacy group Chicago NORML, said Hauswirth introduced her to Peña and Johnston.

Upon meeting them, Moore recalled that she "fell in love with Art and Pepe and their story, and we connected on so many levels. Not only about cannabis wellness, but also activism…I was just so enamored by how long he had been fighting for gay rights, and it just spoke to me."

The co-owners named the dispensary Sway as a nod to both dancing when in a good mood and the influence that the LGBTQ+ community has over culture and politics, Hauswirth said. He added, "Sway kind of encapsulates both sort of the experience and the fun, but also it recognizes the shoulders that we stand on."

Though the company applied for licensing after cannabis was legalized in the state, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the process of securing the authorization, Hauswirth said.

Sway stands across the street from Sidetrack. Johnston and Peña chose that location for the first dispensary to contribute to the area's status as a "queer enclave," Hauswirth recalled.

During a community meeting before its upcoming opening, one resident told Hauswirth that having the dispensary nearby would allow them to safely access cannabis within the community.

Hauswirth said, "One of the ways that we preserve our own spaces is by owning our own spaces—queer ownership, BIPOC ownership, ownership that represents the communities that we are in, and that we want to participate in."

While the company's first dispensary will open up in the Northalsted area, Moore says finding spots for the other two locations has been challenging. The lack of cannabis dispensaries on the city's Southeast side "has been a real thorn in my side, because that's where I'm from, that's where I live, that's where I grew up," Moore said, adding that stigma of cannabis use remains a barrier to creating equitable access to legal cannabis. Moore declined to say where the other two locations might be located.

"Some of these Black communities are just not very welcoming to this type of business, and I've been fighting that since 2015," Moore said. "It's an educational thing for me. Folks need to understand that this is about wellness. It's not always about getting high. Sometimes it is, but most of the time, for me, it's not."

The company plans to source its cannabis from as many LGBTQ+, BIPOC and women-owned businesses as possible, but the limited number of suppliers of underrepresented backgrounds remains a challenge, Hauswirth said. Moore said Sway plans to hire about 16 to 20 employees for each location.

The opening marks the long-overdue diversification of the cannabis industry. Reflecting on the period prior to cannabis legalization in Illinois, Hauswirth noted cannabis criminalization led to the incarceration of many Black and Brown people, and the prohibition of access for people who sought the substance to help people with HIV and AIDS. Once the market began to open up in the state, it remained challenging to get licensing for the business, which led to the industry full of mostly white, wealthy and straight cannabis business owners.

Given that history, "There is something very special about being queer-owned and BIPOC-owned in an industry that means so much more to our communities and trying to do our little part of changing the face of the industry," Hauswirth said.

Though the state has attempted to shepard underrepresented business owners into the industry, those efforts have not turned out as planned, Johnston said. Sway dispensary is "majority BIPOC, gay, Black—we're completely minority owned and run environment," he said.

"Many of the social equity winners of licenses were then unable to find any capital, and have had to give up. And it's a sad story that so much of what was meant to be quite wonderful, has not turned out that way," Johnston said. "However, we have pushed and pushed and pushed. It's taken three or four years longer than any of us thought, and a couple of million dollars more than any of us thought, but we are within a couple of weeks of opening a cannabis dispensary in one of the gay sections of Chicago on North Halsted Street."

Moore was surprised at a community meeting to hear that residents were excited to have the dispensary in the area, because they hadn't been so comfortable with other legal cannabis dispensaries previously.

"I intend to make sure that not only the queer folk, but especially the queer folk, feel welcomed and comfortable in our space, because…that's part of who our founders are," Moore said. "As the business opens the other two locations, it's still going to be very inclusive of the neighborhood, wherever it ends up."

This article shared 11794 times since Mon Apr 1, 2024
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By


Gay News

First Queer and BIPOC-owned Illinois cannabis company opens Northalsted dispensary
A small group gathered April 12 at 3340 N. Halsted St. to celebrate the grand opening of a historic new Northalsted business. SWAY, Illinois' first queer and BIPOC-owned cannabis company, marked the opening of its dispensary ...

Gay News

WORLD Ugandan law, Japan, Cass report, Tegan and Sara, Varadkar done
Ugandan LGBTQ+-rights activists asked the international community to mount more pressure on Uganda's government to repeal an anti-gay law that the country's Constitutional Court refused to nullify, PBS reported. Activist ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Trans woman killed, Tenn. law, S. Carolina coach, Evan Low, Idaho schools
Twenty-four-year-old Latina trans woman and makeup artist Meraxes Medina was fatally shot in Los Angeles, according to the website them, citing The Los Angeles Times. Authorities told the Times they found Medina's broken fingernail and a ...

Gay News

Women & Children First marks its 45th anniversary
By Tatiana Walk-Morris - It has been about 45 years since Ann Christophersen and Linda Bubon co-founded the Women & Children First bookstore in 1979. In its early days, the two were earning their English degrees at the University of ...

Gay News

Big Gay Sal's, pizzeria named after owner's larger-than-life presence, opens in Northalsted
Salvador Mora has always been known for his cheerful smile, warm hugs and big heart, but now it's his pizza that has people talking. Mora co-owns Big Gay Sal's, a late-night pizzeria that opened in March ...

Gay News

LPAC, Arizona LGBTQ officials denounce Arizona Supreme Court ruling on abortion
--From a press release - Washington, DC — Yesterday, in a decision that starkly undermines reproductive freedoms, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled to enforce a 160-year-old law that criminalizes abortion and penalizes healthcare providers who ...

Gay News

Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame seeks nominations for 2024 induction
--From a press release - The Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame has announced a call for nominations for the 2024 class of inductees into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame. Those wishing to may nominate individuals, organizations, businesses, or "Friends of ...

Gay News

Black LGBTQIA leaders applaud U of South Carolina head coach Staley for standing up for trans athlete inclusion
--From a press release - WASHINGTON — On Sunday, April 7, the University of South Carolina's women's basketball team won the NCAA National Championship. Ahead of the championship game, South Carolina's head coach Dawn Staley made comments in support of transgend ...

Gay News

NAIA bans trans athletes from women's sports
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) announced on April 8 that athletes will only be allowed to compete in women's sports if they were assigned female at birth, CBS Sports reported. The NAIA's Council of ...

Gay News

Lambda Legal: NAIA proposed transgender sports ban disappointing, harmful reversal
Lambda Legal: NAIA Proposed Transgender Sports Ban a Disappointing and Harmful Reversal "The NAIA announcement sends a dangerous message, is inconsistent with the law and science, and undercuts the organization's ...

Gay News

For Deb Robertson, the end-of-life issue is very real
For just about everyone, life is hard enough. However, talking about ending that life—especially when one is terminally ill—is just as difficult. Ten states have authorized medical aid in dying, although Illinois is not one of ...

Gay News

KFF survey shows extent of LGBT-related discrimination
KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling and journalism—released "LGBT Adults' Experiences with Discrimination and Health Care Disparities: Findings from the KFF Survey of Racism, Discrimination, and Health." This ...

Gay News

Lightfoot may be hired to investigate Dolton mayor, trustees
A group of Dolton trustees is aiming to hire former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot—who is also an ex-federal prosecutor—to investigate Mayor Tiffany Henyard, media outlets reported. The group wants Lightfoot ...

Gay News

Ugandan court mostly upholds harsh anti-LGBTQ+ law
On April 3, Uganda's constitutional court refused to annul or suspend an anti-LGBTQ+ law that includes the death penalty for certain same-sex acts, Reuters reported. However, the judicial body voided some provisions that it said were ...

Gay News

DoJ accuses Utah of bias against incarcerated trans woman
The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a lawsuit against the State of Utah, including the Utah Department of Corrections (UDOC), alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ...


Copyright © 2024 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.

All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.