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As Elgin sets zoning regs for medical marijuana, state still making up rules

A bud Maui Afghooey marijuandisplayed PureLife Alternative Wellness Center Los Angeles. Illinois has followed Californiseveral other states by approving medical

A bud of Maui Afghooey marijuana displayed at the PureLife Alternative Wellness Center in Los Angeles. Illinois has followed California and several other states by approving medical marijuan use legislation. | AP file photo

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Updated: February 27, 2014 6:28AM

ELGIN — As the state still works out the rules for how, where, and to whom medical marijuana will be dispensed, the Elgin City Council Wednesday night acted on where places for selling and growing pot could be located in the city.

Community Development Director Marc Mylott presented an overview of the zoning regulations proposal which would only allow places that grow or sell cannabis to be located in industrial, research and office parks and to be considered conditional uses.

Setbacks from places such as schools and residential areas for growing centers would be at least 2,500 feet, while setbacks for dispensaries would be 1,500 feet or more — and they could not have drive-through windows.

State law prohibits towns from having unreasonable rules for such operations, Mylott noted.

The measure passed by the City Council by a 9-0 vote.

Councilman Rich Dunne noted that the rules might make it hard for some patients who travel by bus to get to the locations, but conceded his point after being reminded by Corporate Counsel William Cogley that growing and possessing pot remain illegal in all cases under federal law.

Councilman John Prigge noted there probably will be a gradual acceptance of the new and controversial program. He anticipates that a future council will have to decide if such places will be allowed along major Elgin thoroughfares such as Randall Road or McLean Boulevard. But he saw the Wednesday action as being proactive, and a first step instead of holding up and waiting.

Cogley also noted the state’s trial program for medical marijuana ends Jan. 1, 2018. He said that by keeping the marijuana-related places off main roads, the Elgin rules address a possible stigma attached to them and represent a conservative approach to the matter.

Mayor Dave Kaptain said the state is still forming its rules. He noted one of those, proposed Tuesday, would require anyone with a license to use medical marijuana to give up his or her Illinois Firearm Owner’s Identification card.

Rules in place

Under the proposal, patients would pay $150 a year to apply for a medical marijuana registry identification card. They also would pay for their own fingerprinting — costing $30 to $60 — for an Illinois State Police background check.

Patients receiving Social Security disability income could pay a lower fee of $75 a year.

Qualifying patients must be at least 18 and have an established relationship with a doctor who would certify the patient’s medical condition.

The draft rules spell out that veterans getting VA care won’t need a doctor to sign off on their application. VA doctors, as federal employees, aren’t permitted to recommend controlled substances.

While those convicted of felony drug charges are automatically disqualified from the program, a proposed exception would be if the patient proves that a drug conviction involved “a reasonable amount (of) cannabis intended for medical use,” and that the patient had a debilitating medical condition at the time.

The state would have 180 days to act on an application. A patient would need to reapply annually to maintain the certification.

Possession or use of marijuana would be banned on school grounds or school buses, in any other vehicle and at child care businesses and correctional facilities. An exception would be made for transporting marijuana in a vehicle if it is in an inaccessible sealed container.

Smoking marijuana also would be prohibited in health care facilities, anywhere that tobacco smoking is prohibited or in “any public place where an individual could reasonably be expected to be observed by others.”

A nine-member advisory board appointed by the governor would review petitions for adding medical conditions to the list of 30 approved so far for using marijuana. The board would include a patient advocate and eight health professionals in the fields of neurology, pain management, cancer, psychiatry, infectious disease, family medicine, medical ethics and pharmacy.

Program interest

According to reports, the state’s medical marijuana program website has received more than 12,000 unique visitors and more than 2,000 people have signed up for email notifications about the program.

Based on the first-year experience in other states with similar programs, officials have decided to allow patients to apply in two waves. The first applications will be taken on paper, rather than online.

This year, patients whose last names begin with the letters A through L could submit an application in September or October. Patients whose last names begin with M through Z could submit an application in November or December.

Starting in 2015, applications will be accepted year round, regardless of last name.

Statewide rules for dispensaries and cultivation centers still are being drafted. The state intends to allow just 60 dispensaries across the state and only one cultivation center per each of the 22 State Police districts.

The Associated Press
contributed to this story.

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