Naperville officials understand medical marijuana is on its way to town, whether they like it or not. But they want to be sure they avoid giving the nod to head shops.
City Council members Tuesday approved a set of guidelines for the cultivation and distribution of marijuana via prescription to people who can benefit from its medicinal properties.
The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act is set to take effect in Illinois on Jan. 1, and while local municipalities can adopt more stringent rules than those laid out by the state, they cannot outlaw the facilities.
On the books as Illinois Public Act 092-122, the law cites a long history for the medical applications of marijuana in alleviating symptoms of such conditions as cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV/AIDS.
The law will allow those with a doctor’s prescription to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks, and will cap the number of dispensaries statewide at 60.
Cultivation centers will be limited to one in each of the state’s 22 police districts.
Although council members in earlier discussions suggested they wouldn’t want dispensaries to offer drive-through service, the new regulations do not prohibit the feature. Most of their focus in the Dec. 17 comments was directed to the additional items that will be sold, and how much floor area can be devoted to the non-marijuana merchandise.
Councilman Steve Chirico said the city should allow more than the 10 percent of the facilities’ square footage provided in the draft ordinance, reasoning that “oftentimes health-related, natural, organic” products like skin care preparations are marketed as compatible products alongside medical marijuana, and suggesting that the city should not be in the business of regulating that.
“I suspect they would sell pipes and other types of products that are used to administer the drug, but people have to take it somehow, so they should be able to buy it at a place like this,” Chirico said.
Council member Grant Wehrli didn’t see it that way.
“If people can go in there without a prescription and buy those things, it’s a head shop,” he said. “All we would really be doing in the end is facilitating the consumption of an illegal drug ... I can’t go for that.”
At issue is the legality of certain items that can be used with substances that aren’t outlawed, such as tobacco.
Kristen Foley, senior assistant city attorney, said some paraphernalia that does remain illegal for the general population will be distributed to patients and their caregivers, who will be provided with cards attesting that both the marijuana and the equipment necessary for its use have been prescribed by a physician for the patient’s use. Those individuals are the patron population to be targeted by the new dispensaries.
“So people from the public that want to go in there, it’s look but don’t touch, so to speak,” Council member Paul Hinterlong said.
Once the law in implemented, dispensaries will be permitted in the city’s community shopping center, general commercial and health services zoning districts.
Cultivation centers will be allowed as a conditional use in districts zoned for research and development; office, research and light industrial; and industrial uses.
Foley emphasized that because the new law will take Illinois into uncharted territory, it will bring a learning curve.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some additional rules about who can go in, and other things that can be sold, coming up in the future,” she said.