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Legalizing marijuana raises questions about zoning, prescribing issues

Published: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 2:21 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Geneva police Cmdr. Eric Passarelli shows a marijuana plant found in Geneva. Medical marijuana was approved in Illinois. The measure is set to kick in Jan. 1. Growing centers and dispensaries will be licensed.

Now that lawmakers have made Illinois the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana, there are details that will need to be addressed, assuming Gov. Pat Quinn signs the bill.

The bill covers growing centers and dispensaries, among other requirements.

The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act covers a list of medical conditions and diseases – such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma – in which a doctor can legally prescribe marijuana. It also allows for the Illinois Department of Agriculture to issue a permit for up to 22 growing centers, no more than one for each state police district, and 60 dispensaries.

The area served by Illinois State Police District 2 in Elgin includes Kane, McHenry, Lake, Kendall, DuPage and Will counties, officials said.

The bill also would allow grow centers and dispensaries – an inclusion in zoning laws local governments might not have anticipated.

In Geneva, Community Development Director Dick Untch said if someone approached the city wanting to set up either a grow center or dispensary, that person would have to seek a zoning text amendment.

“We haven’t gotten into that topic,” Untch said. “If a use is not specifically stated, it’s not allowed. That is how our zoning ordinance is set up. Only the uses specifically listed are allowed.”

Some jurisdictions have what Untch called “catch-all language,” which include other uses similar to those listed. To know that, anyone looking to set up either a grow center or dispensary would have to look at each municipality’s or county’s individual zoning language.

“Beyond that, we’ve never dug into this law and the whole topic of dispensaries for medical marijuana,” Untch said. “There’s something in the [state] law that pre-empts local zoning.”

Any municipality that requires a zoning change or text amendment would put the whole issue in public for hearings, review, debate and voting, he said.

“It would have to be done in the clear light of day ... exactly what we did for Penrose Brewing,” Untch said, referring to the zoning text amendment process, including public hearings, to allow a microbrewery with a tasting room in Geneva.

“And to have that use, it would have to be compatible. It would have to fit in with other uses in that [zoning] district,” Untch said. “Where would it fit? I’m not sure. I’d have to do some research.”

Kane County Development Director Mark VanKerkhoff said the county’s zoning ordinance include provisions for agriculture, and a marijuana growing center could fit in to the county’s agricultural uses.

“Not having looked into it, if someone applied for such a license, we would look at it with the State’s Attorney’s Office under the authorization of the state,” VanKerkhoff said. “We have to look at whatever passed in the bill and review it.”

• • •

Dr. Rodney Nelson, an oncologist in Geneva, said terpenophenolic compounds – THC – found in marijuana have been legally prescribed by doctors for years to help cancer patients with nausea and appetite stimulation.

“It’s pretty well-tolerated by people who used it recreationally,” Nelson said. “We [prescribe] it some. We use it for wasting syndrome of HIV and also cancer ... with modest results. It has not worked nearly as well as other drugs we have used to control nausea and vomiting, but it has some appetite-stimulating properties.”

Nelson said for him, the problem with prescribing it would be regulating the dose accurately, because the marijuana would vary from batch to batch.

• • •

The bill would go into effect Jan. 1 if the governor signs it, but some already are looking into setting up growing centers and dispensaries. One of them is Batavia resident Samuel Franzmann, who approached the Huntley Village Board during a committee meeting recently to propose a cultivation center.

“I want to make sure that I get my foot in the door and start talking to people to make them realize that I’m not some crook or drug lord trying to encroach on small town Huntley,” Franzmann said.

Franzmann told the board he was a business owner with small business experience, but later said he works for Hinsdale Orthopedic doing information technology work.

Huntley Village Manager Dave Johnson said staff are reviewing the legislation for zoning regulations for medical marijuana growers.

David Blanchette, a spokesman for Quinn, said medical marijuana is one of the top three bills the governor is studying, the other two being concealed carry and the pension issue.

“He is very moved by all the input he’s gotten, especially from veterans,” Blanchette said. “He is also very cognizant of the concerns of law enforcement and weighing both sides before he makes his decision.”

Military veterans groups have lobbied in support of the bill. Law enforcement groups have lobbied against it.

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