Highland Park is one of several Lake County communities preparing for a medical marijuana facility as investors keep a watchful eye on which towns are first with zoning for the highly regulated new industry.
On Jan. 1, Illinois joined 21 other states, plus Washington, D.C., in decriminalizing medical use of marijuana and cultivation of cannabis. The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act will license up to 22 regulated cultivation centers, which will grow pot for up to 60 dispensaries, including a possible three in Lake County.
Highland Park, with its Route 41 industrial corridor, meets many criteria for a licensed dispensary.
A recent public hearing on medical marijuana by the plan commission was continued to Aug. 19 after it appeared no citizens were present to comment on a proposed special-use ordinance for dispensaries. No applications have been received yet, but staff has met with some parties interested in opening a dispensary, said Linda Sloan, planning division manager.
If an application is approved by the city, state licensing still must be obtained for a dispensary. Sloan said applications to the state might be due by late September.
“Our goal is just to get a local law passed right now; that’s all we’re concerned with. Once a law passed, (business groups) will apply for a special use permit,” she said. Public hearings will be held for each phase.
Some of the many requirements by the state are that a marijuana facility must be at least 1,000 feet from the nearest school; the sole occupant of its buildings; not share a parking lot with another business; have close access to major streets (like Route 41 in Highland Park); have minimal signage with no reference in words or images to marijuana, and no window displays.
Also, facilities must maintain strict hours of operation and delivery only during those hours; not allow consumption of the product on or near the facility; maintain strict electronic surveillance and have a secure, enclosed loading dock for the product coming or going on delivery trucks or vans.
Patients qualifying for medical marijuana, up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks, will have ID cards, and will also be under close regulatory scrutiny. Any violation of purchase or use of medical marijuana can result in loss of the ID card, according to state guidelines.
Sloan told plan commission members that staff is keeping a list of interested parties and has sent them information memos.
One of those parties is Joseph Friedman, a Lincolnshire pharmacist and partner in PDI Medical, an Illinois LLC, with Roselle pharmacist Mark Mandel. Friedman said if his company qualified under any community’s ordinance, property would be sought, an architect would draw up plans, the facility would be build and be ready to open in about 60 days.
“We won’t be scrambling to put everything together,” Friedman said. “We’re doing that right now.”
Basic state requirements for a dispensary are between 2500 and 5500 square feet “and if we’re fortunate enough to get a permit, the state is requiring each dispensary to have $400,000 in liquid capital, but we’re anticipating the need for more than that. That should include enough capital to keep going for several months, for the costs of electricity, other utilities and payroll,” Friedman said.
Plan commission chairman Adam Stolberg said staff will be counted on for guidance in the new arena of licensed marijuana dispensaries.
“Linda is obviously well versed in this and we’re going to at least use her experience and recommendations as a guideline,” Stolberg said, “if nothing further than to answer our questions. At the end of the day all we’re making is a recommendation to city council.”
Sloan said the required space for huge cultivation centers preclude them from most densely populated areas.
“The state is looking at cultivation centers on a case by case basis,” she said.
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