BREAKING NEWS: Chicago Enacts Marijuana Rules

Yesterday, Chicago’s city council enacted a zoning ordinance to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries within the city. That ordinance essentially makes most business and commercial strips fair game for a dispensary, so long as the dispensary also complies with the state law requirement that it be at least 1,000 feet away from a school or day care center. Marijuana dispensaries will not be allowed in any building used as a residence.

The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act specified only that MMJ dispensaries be “geographically dispersed” throughout the state. Illinois Department of Professional and Financial Regulation rules later allocated thirteen dispensaries to the city of Chicago, divided by township.

Despite the hopes of many seeking a dispensary license, the city is sticking to its guns in requiring a special-use permit. The special-use permitting process includes a public hearing before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, which will give officials and area residents (or, more likely, business owners) a chance to object and take a hard look at the backgrounds of the potential dispensary owners. It is not yet clear what power, if any, the Zoning Board of Appeals will have to actually reject the siting of a dispensary.

Potential applicants are welcoming this development, as the zoning rules are actually less restrictive than the initial  proposal pushed by Alderman Burke, which would have relegated dispensaries to the city’s more remote industrial areas. However, the special-use permitting process could take considerable time — time that applicants are short on, with applications expected in the next month and submissions due possibly as early as September.

One cultivation center will be permitted within Cook County (which includes the City of Chicago). That cultivation center must be at least 2,500 feet away from schools, day care centers and dwelling units, and will also require a  special-use permit. Due to the siting restrictions, we expect this cultivation center will likely be located near Lake Calumet, I-55, or O’Hare.

The City Council also closed an enforcement loophole on synthetic marijuana making it a crime for a business to possess it or conceal it on site. The old laws essentially required investigators and police officers to witness a business selling synthetic marijuana to pursue a case, because businesses otherwise could argue that though they had synthetic marijuana behind their counter, they were not actually selling it.

We applaud the city council both for not ghettoizing its dispensaries and for toughening its laws on synthetic marijuana, of which we are not fans.

For more on Illinois medical marijuana and its rapidly developing laws, check out the following: