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Illinois - Medical Marijuana Coming Soon To Southland

The General

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A medical marijuana dispensary soon will be coming to a community near you. That's the message from Adam Dotson, community development director from the city of Oak Forest, where a zoning commission last week approved an amendment that would allow such businesses in the community. "Whether or not you like the idea, whether or not you approve, the fact is that one of these medical marijuana facilities is going to be coming to your community soon," Dotson said.

He said Oak Forest has had inquiries from three different businesses about opening dispensaries, and one even had a potential site selected before it withdrew its request for a hearing. While the Oak Forest planning and zoning commission approved a process to obtain a special-use permit for marijuana dispensaries, the city council still must vote on it. "There's an economic impact to this sort of facility and there's a record out there for people to look at in other states," Dotson said.

Under Illinois' Compassionate Cannabis Pilot Program Act, 22 cultivation centers and 60 dispensaries would be allowed throughout the state. A cultivation center is "a facility operated by an organization or business that is registered to perform necessary activities to provide only registered medical cannabis" to dispensing organizations, according to state regulations. Cultivation centers are being regulated by the Illinois Department of Agriculture and are forbidden by law from selling marijuana to the public. They cannot be within 2,500 feet of the property line of a school building or day care center or an area zoned for residential use.

As I understand it, that pretty much limits the places they could be located in the south suburbs. Any business that wants to apply for a permit to cultivate a crop of marijuana first must pay the state $25,000. If the permit is approved, another $200,000 fee would be required with an additional $100,000 mandatory to renew the permit. As for dispensaries, 60 of them would be allowed under the state law, with regions of the state carved into dispensary districts.

In the Southland, those districts tend to be defined by groups of townships. For example, one district includes Lemont, Lyons and Palos townships, and only one dispensary will be allowed in that entire region. Calumet, Stickney and Worth townships also are a group where one dispensary can be located. Bremen, Orland and Rich townships form yet another district. Bloom and Thornton townships are grouped to form another.

Will County, like most of the collar counties, is considered a separate region, and it is allowed to have three dispensaries. I don't know if Tinley Park, which lies in Cook County's Orland Township and also Will County, would be allowed to have two dispensaries. Tinley Park already has addressed the zoning issues limiting cultivation centers to areas zoned for industrial and office use and dispensing operations to heavy manufacturing areas.

Each type of operation would require a special-use permit. Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury said her village has yet to vote on any zoning legislation for marijuana facilities. "We have received inquiries from three businesses interested in locating here," Bury said. "The zoning issue was on an agenda for consideration, but the board decided to table it because no one really wanted to discuss the issue." Bury said that under state law the village is prohibited from levying any sort of sales tax on marijuana sales, nor can it prohibit such a facility from locating anywhere in the suburb.

"We will probably take this issue up again next week, but my understanding is that there are a very limited number of these businesses being permitted, and if other village boards approve rules, they will go there and by the time we approve something there won't be much interest in coming to Oak Lawn," Bury said. Orland Park appears to be taking the same approach, although in a more diplomatic fashion. "Orland Park has declared a moratorium until September," village spokesman Joe La Margo said.

Asked what that meant, he said, "The board is not voting on any zoning issues regarding this type of business and will not consider any requests from businesses seeking to operate here." La Margo noted that the state only recently has posted its regulations governing cultivation centers and marijuana dispensaries. Bury said it's not the sort of business she would want in her community, although as a doctor of optometry, she understands the value of medical marijuana.

Glaucoma, a condition that leads to damage of the optic nerve, is considered one of the ailments that can be treated through the use of marijuana. "There have actually been very few medical studies done about that in the United States," Bury said. "There is no literature, for example, on the dosage that should be used to treat such a condition." As past president of the Illinois Optometric Association, Bury said she was involved in a campaign to keep optometrists from being among the groups approved to sign off on prescriptions for medical marijuana.

"We just didn't want people coming to us all the time seeking permission to use marijuana," Bury said. She said optometrists are not included among the list of professionals in Illinois qualified to provide marijuana. However, she said she has seen glaucoma patients whose "pressure" was greatly reduced, and when she asked them what they had been doing, they confided they had used marijuana. And that's exactly why such facilities are popping up across the country, because the drug can help those who are sick. The Illinois regulations require background checks, security measures, laboratory testing of samples and other precautions. A prohibition against "drive-through windows" at dispensaries made me laugh. Taverns and liquor stores pose a greater danger to public safety.


News Moderator - The General @ 420 MAGAZINE ®
Source: Southtownstar.suntimes.com
Author: Phil Kadner
Contact: Contact Us
Website: Kadner: Medical marijuana coming soon to Southland - Southtown Star
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