City, village, and county governments across Illinois are debating the potential costs and benefits of a licensed cannabis cultivation center or dispensary in their community. The last few days have seen discussion in Olney, Effingham, Bloomington, and Flora.
Local governments generally are becoming receptive to cannabis regulation as they become acquainted with the law enough to understand that cannabis medicine is available only to cardholding patients who have been certified by an Illinois physician as having a debilitating medical condition, and that local government cannot prevent patients in their community from obtaining and using cannabis medicine.
Economic arguments are also influential on local leaders. Most appreciate that a licensed cultivation center or dispensary will create jobs and generate substantial local economic activity. Hence most communities, after they become sufficiently informed about the law and regulations, become willing to adjust their zoning ordinance or issue a special use permit as necessary to accommodate a prospective applicant.
Mayors of Olney and Effingham share their perspective
In Olney, Richland County, ISP District 12, Mayor Ray Vaughn told a local newspaper he thinks his county should welcome applicants that would want to locate locally:
“We’re always recruiting people that want to invest their money in our community. If it’s marijuana or manufacturing or trucking, they’re going to get similar types of enthusiasm,” he said.
Vaughan doesn’t see a problem with bringing marijuana into the community now that the state has approved its medicinal use. He compares it to the production of any other prescription drug.
“My view is, and I’m just speaking for myself, if a laboratory wanted to put a facility in the area, why would I have a concern about that?” he said. “The state says it’s legal, and my blood pressure medication is legal, so I don’t see a problem at this time.”
Vaughan said with so many communities in District 12 potentially wanting the income that would come with a marijuana growing operation, competition could be fierce. He believes having the discussion open between the public and elected officials could improve Olney’s chances.
Interviewed in the same article is Merv Gillenwater, mayor of Effingham in Effingham County, which is also in ISP District 12. Gillenwater’s quotes are more apprehensive than Vaughn’s:
“I do think that there’s a real possibility that marijuana can help people with medical needs, but this is the first drug that I’m aware of that has developed the way it has,” he said. “Most of the time it goes through the FDA. This is one of the issues where it’s been public-driven, but there’s not a lot of scientific evidence.”
Much of Gillenwater’s opinion on marijuana stems from his experience dealing with the drug during his career with the Illinois State Police. Having seen the negative effects of Area officials differ on prospect of growers marijuana addiction, as well as the violence that can erupt around it, Gillenwater doesn’t believe Effingham should host any state-monitored operations. He also believes potential jobs that could be created from marijuana cultivation may be overestimated. Even if they aren’t, he said it’s not a risk he is willing to take.
“When I fist became mayor, I said I wanted to help select the businesses that came to our town and be kind of particular,” he said. “We have been able to do that so far. I think everybody sees the money, and we do too, but I think there’s better ways to do it.”
Deerpath Development courts Flora for ISP District 12 cultivation permit
On July 24, the City Council of Flora in Clay County passed an ordinance to approve a real estate contract with Deerpath Development LLC, according to local newspaper The Advocate Press. Deerpath seeks to operate a cannabis cultivation center on 11 acres in Flora’s Industrial Park. It appears the company would seek to build a 120,000 square-foot facility and employ about 50 people:
The 120,000 square foot facility will be located in Flora’s Industrial Park at Countryview Drive and Commercial Drive on 11.6 acres currently owned by the City of Flora to be purchased by Deerpath Development, LLC. According to the Director of Community Relations with Deerfield Development, they hope to bring 50 jobs to the area and will be a major user of Flora’s electric, gas and water services.
Administrative error delays zoning progress in Bloomington
Bloomington’s City Council had planned to vote this coming Monday, July 28 on a recommendation from its Planning Commission. The recommendation would amend local ordinance to allow dispensaries to locate in business, commercial, or manufacturing zones. Unfortunately, the Council is unable to vote the measure Monday because notice was not given:
“There was an oversight on our part. We didn’t properly notice the intent for a public hearing, so we are going to have to re-advertise for a public hearing to meet statutory requirements,” said Bloomington interim Community Development Coordinator Frank Koehler.
The City Council now plans to hold the hearing on Aug. 13. Bloomington is in McLean County, ISP District 6.
Incidentally, earlier this week saw local issues related to prospective cultivation centers and dispensaries in: in Urbana (ISP District 10), Roseville (ISP District 14), Aurora (ISP District 2 and ISP District 5), Macomb (ISP District 14), Spring Valley (ISP District 17), Galesburg (ISP District 7), Naperville (ISP District 2 and ISP District 5), Stephenson County (ISP District 16), and Elgin (ISP District 2 and ISP District Chicago/Cook County).