The Glenview Village Board of Trustees has rejected GreenLeaf Organic’s application to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the village, according a report in the Chicago Tribune. The decision went against the village plan commission’s unanimous recommendation in favor of the dispensary; opponents cited the potential impact on children, property values, and the overall character of the community as reasons to vote down the proposal. Legally, however, they argued that the location was inapt because it fell within 1,000 feet of Taniel Varoujan Armenian School. Though GreenLeaf suggested that the school does not qualify under the state’s definition of elementary and secondary schools, the state has not yet offered its opinion on the case. According to the article, the attorney for the dispensary said they will consider legal option’s to appeal the board’s decision.
Updated October 8th: According to the Pioneer Press, Chicagoan Brad Zerman has applied for a license from the state to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in Highland Park. The application’s viability will depend on whether or not Highland Park adopts any local zoning ordinances, and, if they do, how restrictive they will be towards dispensaries. Highland Park’s city council met to discuss the issue yesterday. Stay tuned for more updates as this story develops.
As Glenview plan commissioners vote to push forward a proposal for the area’s only state-allotted medical marijuana dispensary, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, and other municipalities along the North Shore have yet to receive even a single application.
Illinois’ four-year medical marijuana pilot program, adopted in August 2013 and effective since January 1 of this year, included stipulations for the construction of 22 cultivation centers and 60 dispensaries, to be geographically distributed across the state based on the population of each county and/or township. The deadline for dispensary and cultivation center applications was Monday, September 22.
Though it’s ultimately up to the state to approve licensing for prospective cultivation centers and dispensaries, applicants must first satisfy the individual zoning ordinances of the municipality in which they want to operate. Local governments may institute any number of “reasonable” zoning provisions and regulations—such as requirements for special-use permits, stricter signage restrictions, or increased security precautions—so long as they don’t “unreasonably prohibit” medical marijuana facilities within their jurisdiction.
“There’s no science to it. There’s no bright line,” Lake County Planning, Building and Development Director Eric Waggoner said, in reference to one of the statute’s more interpretive clauses. “It’s something that would have to be litigated if an applicant felt a local government was being too restrictive.”
In Glenview’s case, dispensaries were limited to industrial districts within the village. Evidently the regulation did not deter the area’s first proposed medical marijuana dispensary, Greenleaf Organics; according to TribLocal, Glenview plan commissioners have already voted unanimously in favor of recommending the proposal to the village. If Glenview’s Board of Trustees, and eventually the state, were to approve, Greenleaf Organics would become the first and only medical marijuana dispensary licensed to operate in New Trier and Northfield townships.
Other municipalities in the area have not been as welcoming, namely Northbrook. According to the Pioneer Press, the village has expressly stated its intention to curb the development of medical marijuana establishments within its jurisdiction. As of the deadline, Northbrook trustees had yet to ratify an ordinance that would give applicants an idea of where they could open.
Though perhaps not as aggressive, Lake County has taken a calculated approach to the pilot program. In January, the county, under Waggoner’s leadership, created a “Medical Cannabis Zoning Task Force” to provide a standardized set of guidelines to its local governmental constituents.
“Based on best practices research and case studies on dispensaries and how they’re conducted in other states,” Waggoner said, “we identified a series of different rules that were incorporated into a model that each community could decide whether to pick up or not.”
As GazeboNews reported in January, these guidelines included stricter signage restrictions and more in-depth security specifications than the state’s statute, as well as a recommendation that dispensaries and/or cultivation centers only be permitted at single-use properties. The provisions also included room for local municipalities to impose their own buffers—the requisite distance between a medical marijuana facility and “protected use” zones, such as a public park or school.
“We took into account some of those additional public health and safety factors that were not incorporated into state law, but that we as task members thought were appropriate,” Waggoner said.
Some municipalities in Lake County, such as Deerfield, Lake Forest, and Lake Bluff, have made good use of the guidelines; with a few exceptions, all three villages’ individual zoning provisions are in keeping with the task force’s model. Highland Park’s plan commission will consider their own medical marijuana zoning ordinance on October 7.
Lake Bluff’s Assistant to the Village Administrator Brandon Stanick wrote in an e-mail that, though the village has received quite a few inquiries, only one was property-specific, and Lake Bluff has yet to receive an actual application. Highland Park’s Director of Community Development Joel Fontane confirmed that they had not received any applications, either.
“At this point,” Waggoner said, “we’re not aware of any applications that have been submitted to governments in Lake County for zoning approval.”
Under the pilot program, Lake County can house up to three dispensaries, and, at most, one cultivation center. However, the state reserves the right to accept less than the allotted 60 dispensaries, and it’s not like the state can force prospective owners to apply to locations within certain districts.
“There are some communities [on the North Shore] that, even by state statutes, couldn’t have dispensaries,” Lake County’s Principal Planner Tom Chefalo said, citing the North Shore’s wide variety of land uses.
Lake Forest, for example, is not amenable to dispensaries, simply by nature of its city plan; with its density of residential zones, public parks, and schools, it would be an unlikely candidate for a prospective applicant, the Pioneer Press reports.
With no apparent plan to extend the deadline or open the process up to a second round of applicants, how will the state react to a potential dearth of applications?
“If you have a very narrow field of applicants statewide, it might force the state to revisit its administrative rule scheme for licensing, and maybe allow for a less restrictive process,” Waggoner speculated. “We don’t know how many might apply if this gets opened up again. It’s new territory, so we’re just keeping our eyes and ears open for whatever comes next.”