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In the zone: Cities set rules on medical cannabis

Kane County and a few municipalities within it this year already are setting their rules and regulations for medical cannabis.

The state Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act became law on Jan. 1. With the four-year program now on the books, towns are preparing to have dispensaries where medical patients can receive or purchase cannabis and cultivation centers where the cannabis can grow.

The current proposed rules would allow up to two dispensing centers in Kane County and one cultivation center in each state police district, said Mark VanKerkhoff, the county's development and community services director, in May. Kane County is in a police district with DuPage, DeKalb, McHenry and Lake counties.

Since no one is sure where the dispensaries might go, local governments are making plans for zoning restrictions and adopting ordinances now so that laws will be in place if and when medical cannabis eventually becomes available in the state. Local municipalities want to be ready in case a proposal is brought forward.

A Kane County government staff proposal defines dispensaries and cultivation centers each as an "interim special use" that would be subject to a public hearing and require County Board approval. The special uses could be limited to five years and could be specified to terminate automatically when the state law expires Dec. 31, 2018.

Since state law prohibits placing cultivation centers within 2,500 feet of a residential area, one of the only possible spots in St. Charles that one could be located is a mostly retail and industrial corridor on the city's east side.

St. Charles city staff's proposal limits the use of the center and dispensaries to that zoning district.

Staff decided it would be easier if all of these permitted uses were in this one zoning district should any issues arise, said Matt O'Rourke, the city's economic development division manager, in April. City staff said it would be easier to track any cultivation center or dispensaries in one area of the city while the program is still in its pilot phase.

The St. Charles City Council on May 5 approved the zoning code amendment that includes the restrictions.

Further south in the county, the North Aurora Village Board is considering allowing medical marijuana dispensaries as permitted uses in areas zoned for commercial, industrial or office use. The village's Plan Commission will hold a public hearing about changing the zoning code and likely discuss the proposal in July.

Kane County officials and residents like Patty Schuler are among those keeping up to date on cannabis-related legislation across Illinois. Schuler hopes that patients who are sick will be able to have reasonable access to medical cannabis if it would benefit their conditions.

"Patients probably won't have access until this time next year," said Schuler, a Batavia-based cannabis consultant.

Schuler in late May held an informational session on medical cannabis at the Batavia Public Library.

"I hope Illinois gets on board sooner rather than later," Schuler said. "It's going to be good for the state."

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