With medical marijuana becoming legal in Illinois, Park Ridge officials will begin considering where a marijuana dispensary might be allowed to operate, if anyone seeks to open one in town.
Aldermen on Monday essentially agreed that city zoning officials should begin looking at how to treat dispensaries in the zoning code and where they could be sited.
Meeting as the City Council’s informal committee of the whole, aldermen remained silent when Ald. Marc Mazzuca, 6th, who chairs discussions of procedures and regulations, asked whether they wanted city officials to start examining zoning code options for dispensaries.
He then asked if any aldermen had any objections to city officials doing so.
After several more seconds of silence, Mazzuca declared that was a good enough consensus to let them proceed.
The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act preempts “home rule” authority to ban dispensaries, but gives municipalities leeway with some zoning restrictions.
Marijuana “cultivation sites” must be 2,500 feet from schools and day or group care centers, and cannot be in residential zoning districts; dispensaries must be 1,000 feet from those uses and are likewise banned from residential zoning districts.
Jim Testin, director of community preservation and development, said the combination of those restrictions and Park Ridge’s current zoning map means “it doesn’t appear that a cultivation center would work” but “there is the potential” for dispensaries in general retail areas, especially along stretches of Busse Highway or Higgins Road, or near the intersection of Dempster Street and Greenwood Avenue.
Testin said that within areas where dispensaries would be permitted by the state law, the Business 2 and Business 3 zoning districts appear at first glance to be the best potential fits.
The question now is how to regulate dispensaries within those districts, he added.
Testin said medical marijuana dispensaries would be designated as “special uses” within those districts, which would require public hearings before the Planning and Zoning Commission and final approval from the City Council.
Potential zoning code models to emulate include Barrington’s medical marijuana ordinance, along with proposed ordinances in Homer Glen, Joliet and Naperville, he added.
Barrington’s ordinance, enacted in August 2013, added medical marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries as special uses and required them to follow the state law’s siting and security restrictions. It also banned them from using the words “marijuana,” “cannabis” or “any other word, phrase or symbol commonly understood to refer to marijuana or cannabis” on exterior signs or window treatments larger than 8.5 inches by 11 inches.
Illinois’ medical marijuana law took effect Jan. 1, creating a four-year pilot program, but no cultivation centers or dispensaries can open until all the state agencies that will oversee the pilot program approve rules and regulations.
The state departments of Public Health, Financial and Professional Regulation, Revenue, and Agriculture filed their proposed rules and opened a public comment period. Another public comment period will come when the state’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules considers adoption of the agencies’ proposals.
Under those rules, one cultivation site will be allocated to each of the 22 Illinois State Police districts, while 60 dispensaries will be allocated statewide; Maine and Wheeling townships will be allocated one dispensary.
“It’s unclear whether we would have one here,” Testin said, “but there is that potential within the rules.”
Park Ridge resident Jay Terry told aldermen to be careful in determining where medical marijuana dispensaries could and would go. Citing his own experiences while visiting family in California — where medical marijuana has been legal for some time — Terry said the marijuana industry will use any loophole in the law or zoning code.
“I can tell you that in California, the line between medical marijuana and everyday use is virtually nonexistent,” Terry said. “This is a very aggressive industry. Don’t underestimate them.”
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