A proposed medical marijuana facility is sparking concerns from some Lombard residents who say the site is too close to homes and a private high school.
The village board must decide whether to grant a conditional use to MMRE LLC, the company that wants to open the dispensary in office space at 510 E. 22nd St.
Trustees recently agreed unanimously to table any further discussion or action until at least Dec. 4.
“Municipalities must provide for locations within their corporate limits for such facilities,” Village Attorney Tom Bayer said. “Lombard cannot prohibit dispensaries from locating in the village.”
But Bayer said that under the state’s new Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, the company still needs to obtain a dispensary license before opening.
At least 23 potential sellers are competing for the three licenses that will be issued in DuPage County.
Dispensaries must be 1,000 feet away from elementary and secondary schools, day care homes, group day care homes or part-day child care facilities. The act does not provide a buffer from residential properties.
“The village board may only consider zoning and land use aspects of the proposed dispensing facility,” Bayer said.
Items that can’t be considered by the village board, Bayer said, include whether marijuana has medical benefits or if it is good public policy to provide medical cannabis facilities.
Sean Daly, a representative for MMRE LLC, said only patients with qualifying medical conditions and a medical cannabis ID card will be allowed into the dispensary. There will be many security features at the building, including bulletproof windows, and a maximum of five employees on the premises, including a retired pharmacist, a receptionist and patient consultants.
The proposed hours for the dispensary are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. State law requires the dispensaries to be open at least 35 hours a week, Daly said.
Several representatives from Montini Catholic High School said they were concerned with the negative impact the dispensary could have on students, considering it would be only 3,000 feet away from the school’s property line and along the route many students take to classes each day.
“No one questions the merits of medical marijuana in treating some medical conditions,” Montini President Jim Segredo said. “We are questioning and opposing the possible location of this facility. It is simply not the right location because there are too many potential risks.”
Segredo said he especially worries about the possibility of illegal distribution of marijuana obtained at the facility.
“The petitioner and any others who believe there will be no individuals issuing medical marijuana prescriptions or obtaining medical marijuana cards for illegal use is just naive,” he said. “It is our opinion that there are too many opportunities already for grade school and high school students to find avenues to purchase marijuana. Bringing a medical marijuana distribution center to this location creates another opportunity.”
Wally Weisenburger, chairman of Montini’s board of directors, asked village trustees to consider the long-term ramifications of allowing a dispensary to open so close to a private school.
“The existence of this facility could also threaten the existence of Montini High School,” he said. “Each year we have to sell ourselves to our parents and part of that sales routine is to make sure that we have a safe environment for our children.”
Montini Principal Maryann O’Neill said she also worries about how students will react when they see a dispensary so close to their school.
“I think students who see a medical marijuana dispensary will think — because they are naive, because they are impressionable, because they are vulnerable — if it’s medical, it must be OK,” she said.
Other issues that were raised included the possibility of increased traffic in an already congested area and negative impacts on property values. Some residents also expressed concerns with the safety of the people using the dispensary.
“These are people suffering one of 20 debilitating conditions. Each client … will be carrying between $250 and $1,000 cash in their pocket on the way in and medical marijuana in their pocket on the way out,” said Susan Kramer, who spoke on behalf of many residents in the nearby Abbey Woods subdivision. “These people are viewed as soft targets and they’re very appealing to the criminal element.”
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