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City leaders preparing Morris for medical marijuana

MORRIS – With the legalization of medical marijuana coming to Illinois in 2014, Morris leaders are preparing to equip the city for the potential marijuana growing and selling centers.

The Morris Planning Commission met Wednesday where the commission members, City Planner Mike Hoffman and City Attorney Scott Belt, discussed what the new law means for municipalities.

Regulations by the state are still being worked on, so no one can apply to open medical marijuana facilities yet.

The “Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act” was signed by Gov. Pat Quinn in August and goes into effect Jan. 1.

The act is a four-year pilot program allowing medical marijuana in Illinois until at least 2018.

Those diagnosed with specific medical conditions who receive a prescription from a doctor can receive medical marijuana.

“It’s not an issue in Morris yet, but there is a strong possibility it will become one,” Commission Chairman Roger Gilbertson said.

The law allows dispensing locations, where medical marijuana can be purchased with a prescription, and cultivation centers, where it would be grown.

The law allows up to 60 retail locations and up to 22 cultivation centers. There cannot be more than one cultivation center in each state police district. Grundy County is in District 5 with other counties, including Will County.

Municipalities are allowed to enact zoning ordinances for these uses, but ordinances cannot conflict with the act or the regulations.

The act states the dispensing location cannot be within 1,000 feet of public or private schools or day care centers.

The cultivation centers cannot be within 2,500 feet of these same locations.

“A lot of communities are starting to look at what control they can have over these if they are going to have them,” Hoffman said.

The commission agreed to have Hoffman research and bring suggestions back to the commission on how to zone these potential uses.

Gilbertson said he thought the best location for the growing centers would be in manufacturing zoning.

Commissioner John Wilkinson agreed and suggested the area of Ashley Road.

The commission discussed looking at ways to keep the retail establishments out of the downtown. Gilbertson said he would like them to be conditionally permitted uses, which would force these businesses to come before the commission.

“Could we require it to be in a freestanding building with no other uses in it?” asked Bill Cheshareck, building and zoning officer.

Belt said he did not have an answer yet, noting specific regulations will be coming from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

The law allows those with certain conditions – including cancer, muscular dystrophy and Tourette syndrome – and a doctor’s prescription to receive 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.

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