Lake Forest may tighten medical marijuana facility restrictions

<p>File Photo</p>

Medical marijuana | File Photo

The Lake Forest Plan Commission approved tightening restrictions on possible medical cannabis dispensaries and cultivation centers that want to locate in the city.

The commissioners agreed unanimously on Wednesday, July 9, to forward their recommendation to the City Council to consider requiring a special use permit for the facilities, which were recently allowed by state law. The special use permit process requires a public hearing and thorough review.

“There’s very limited likelihood we will see any of these facilities,” Director of Community Development Cathy Czerniak said.

The Illinois Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, adopted by the state legislature in August 2013, allows up to 22 cultivation centers and 60 dispensing facilities in the state. The act does not allow dispensaries or cultivation centers to locate within residential zoning districts or within specified distances of public or private schools or day-care facilities.

“The city of Lake Forest, due to the predominance of residential zoning throughout the community and the multitude of public and private schools, offers very limited location opportunities,” Czerniak said. “However, it is important for the city to have an established review process and reasonable criteria in place in the event this type of request is received.”

The city cannot prohibit such facilities from locating in town, she said.

The commissioners agreed to limit signage and hours of operation, prohibit drive-thrus and require that parking lots for medical cannabis facilities be visible from a public street.

Khris Condon, program coordinator for the SpeakUP! Prevention Coalition based in Lake Forest, asked the commissioners to keep the location of a potential site out of the “mainstream areas of our youth.”

Condon said she fears they will equate “medical” with “safe” and get a false impression of cannabis use for non-medical reasons.

“Please keep our youth in the forefront of your mind,” she said.

In its discussion, commissioners questioned who would be allowed to work in dispensaries and cultivation centers, whether deliveries by vehicles with advertising would be allowed from the facilities and if the city has any say in whether a dispensary, for example, fits in with surrounding businesses. They specifically mentioned the potential harm of allowing a dispensary next to a bar, for example.

Some considerations, like surrounding uses and whether it poses a danger to the general public, would be considered under the city special use permit process, Czerniak said.

“We do have current ordinances that speak to using vehicles as advertising,” she said.

The commissioners agreed to forward a list of their questions with their recommendation to the City Council.

Lake Bluff’s Village Board voted unanimously in May to include “medical cannabis dispensary” as a special use in the village’s light industrial district — but layered in tighter restrictions on signage, surveillance and hours of operation. The village’s light industrial area lies on the west side of town.

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