The Naperville City Council has passed to the Planning & Zoning Commission the question of where the growing and distribution of medical marijuana should be permitted in the city.
The matter of whether those processes can take place within the municipal boundaries already has been decided by the General Assembly. As of Jan. 1, 2014, Illinois law will permit cultivation centers and dispensing facilities for prescribed medicinal use of marijuana to be located anywhere in the state. Municipalities can pass regulations more stringent than those laid out in the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, but they can’t forbid the facilities completely.
Councilman Doug Krause said it would be his strong preference for pharmacies to be the routine distribution hub for medical pot, although the law limits their ability to do so. But Krause said he doesn’t object to the idea of “isolating” the cultivating step in industrial areas, such as warehouse districts.
“Personally I hope they locate other than in Naperville,” Krause said.
At least one of his fellow council members takes a different approach to the issue.
“This is a medication that’s going to relieve a lot of people’s anguish, really,” Councilman Bob Fieseler said, though he acknowledged he has concerns about cultivation.
According to preliminary assessments from city staff, just a handful of sites in the city meet state guidelines governing placement of cultivation centers. Locations in Naperville where growing could be done include the area around Jefferson Avenue and Ambassador Drive, which is predominated by warehouses; the commercial properties near Route 59 and Ferry Road; and on the BP property southeast of Warrenville Road and Mill Street. Dispensaries could be located in major retail areas such as those along Route 59, Ogden Avenue and Washington Street, staff members say.
While he agreed that cultivation sites need to be approved with care, Fieseler cautioned against “demonizing” medical uses of marijuana.
“If you want to talk about gateway drugs and that kind of thing, I think we ought to worry about cigarettes and alcohol, which are just available through the alley here,” he said. “The time has come for us to make this available to people who need it in Naperville, and I don’t see how we can distinguish this from the pharmacies which frankly make available to people just as readily substances which can be abused.”
According to Kristen Foley, senior assistant city attorney, there can be no more than 60 dispensaries in the state, and all employees who have access to the facilities must be licensed and adhere to restrictions on those to whom they can sell the medication. The Illinois Department of Public Health and state police also will have roles in regulating the distribution of medical marijuana, and well-detailed security plans will be required for all facilities.
“It’s going to be a very, very heavily regulated industry,” Foley said.