Whether medical marijuana cultivation centers or dispensaries eventually come to Plainfield, village officials are working to put plans in place, just in case.
During the June 16 village board meeting, the trustees voted to direct the village attorney to prepare an ordinance that would amend the zoning code to incorporate regulations for medical marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries, pursuant to the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. All trustees voted in favor of the discussed amendment, except for Trustee Garrett Peck.
Under the amended code, both cultivation centers and dispensaries would be permitted only upon special use approval. Cultivation centers would be allowed in the I-1 or I-2 zoning districts (office, research, and light industrial, and general industrial, respectively). Dispensaries could go in I-1, I-2, or B-3 (highway business district).
Though some suggested excluding B-3 from the zoning ordinance and possibly amending the code later, trustee Dan Rippy pointed out the board would have to approve special uses anyway. Further, because the number of licenses is limited and there is an upcoming application deadline, it could be too late to amend the village’s zoning regulations in the future.
“If we’re going to do this, we should include the B-3,” Rippy said, noting empty bank buildings in B-3 areas are secure and would be ideal locations for dispensaries.
Trustee Jim Racich questioned the possibility of a medical marijuana dispensary or cultivation center even coming to the area. State legislation currently allows for 60 dispensaries throughout the state and 21 cultivations centers.
However, “there’s been an extensive amount of interest,” according to Village Planner Michael Garrigan, who said interested parties have been looking to Plainfield’s B-3 corridor for potential dispensary sites. Garrigan added regulations for cultivation centers are stricter than those for dispensaries, making it less likely one would come to Plainfield.
Dispensaries may not be located within 1,000 feet from a school, day care facility, or group home. Additional distance is required between a cultivation center and a residential area, school, day care center, or group home. There are requirements for the physical layout of the buildings as well, according to state law.
Peck expressed concern about the legality of the act and asked if having a dispensary or cultivation center could have ramifications for the village. The trustee added the state statute goes against federal law, and questioned what would happen if a different presidential administration were to later decide to enforce that law.
“I don’t believe that marijuana is actually a problem for someone that is terminally ill… Philosophically, I’m OK with it. Legally, I think it’s a problem,” Peck said.
However, village attorney James Harvey said the state has created monopolies on the centers, allowing the village little jurisdiction.
“We’re not going to be in the dispensary business; we’re not going to be in the cultivation center business, we’re just doing what the state’s allowed us. …Our role is very tiny in this, and it’s strictly land use,” Harvey said, adding, “Even the land use role is tiny because of the distance determinations that the state’s already made in the statute, so it’s a very narrow role that we have.”
Though municipalities are permitted to adopt local zoning regulations, they can’t zone out medical marijuana uses completely. The state Department of Agriculture will oversee the permitting of cultivation centers, and the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation will oversee permitting of dispensaries.
“We have no authority even to pass an ordinance not allowing this,” Rippy added. “The state’s already dictated that they will be where the state puts them – and that’s it.”
However, Harvey noted in a memo that the village’s proposed text amendments regarding zoning are similar to those of other local municipalities.
“If we didn’t act, the one thing, short term, is that there would be no opportunity for any local entrepreneur to obtain one of these licenses. Big picture, we don’t make the rules, we’re not going to issue the licenses. …We just determine… what would be the best village policy for these businesses,” Harvey said.
Next, the ordinance has to be approved by the village board. Garrigan said signage stipulations would be approved administratively, and those parameters would be incorporated into their administrative review. But after that, decisions about medical marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries are generally up to the state.
“The state is finalizing the rules and regulations, and then I think applications should be going in at the end of this month, first part of July. …They’re hoping to have the first dispensaries open the first part of 2015,” Garrigan said.
Passed in August 2013, Illinois’ Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act is a “sunset” act that initiates a four-year pilot program in the state. Medical marijuana patients must be approved by Illinois-licensed physicians and register with the state. There are approximately 33 chronic illnesses the act identifies, allowing adult patients with those conditions to seek approval to use medical marijuana as treatment.
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