Pubdate: Fri, 24 Jan 2014
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2014 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: John Byrne


Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago aldermen want their say on where
marijuana can be grown and sold in the city under the state's new
medical cannabis program, and they're considering tougher zoning
restrictions than those prescribed by Springfield.

State law already says the marijuana dispensaries would be allowed
only in manufacturing zones at least 1,000 feet away from homes,
schools and day care centers. Ald. Edward Burke and Emanuel are
endorsing a city ordinance that would require those who want to
dispense the marijuana to get a permit after a hearing in front of the
Zoning Board of Appeals, a panel appointed by the mayor that nearly
always takes its cues from local aldermen.

Burke, 14th, complained Thursday that city officials were given little
ability to block cannabis dealers from coming to Chicago under the
four-year pilot program the state approved last year.

"I think local residents have the right to weigh in on how their
neighborhood should be regulated, whether it's a license for the sale
of alcoholic beverages or a license to distribute medical marijuana,"
Burke said.

Members of the City Council zoning committee did not vote on the plan
Thursday, saying they want more time to consider how to proceed as
state regulators draw up the finer points of the statute.

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical
marijuana, while Colorado and Washington also allow it for
recreational use. Illinois' law took effect Jan. 1, allowing for the
sale of medical marijuana for a list of three dozen or so chronic
medical conditions. The state rules are scheduled to be ready for
public input by the end of April.

Ali Nagib, assistant director of the Illinois chapter of the National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said Illinois standards
are already extremely strict. "I would say the Illinois law is, if not
the most conservative, one of the most conservative laws on this issue
(in the U.S.)," Nagib said at Thursday's hearing.

In addition to the state rules governing the location of dispensaries,
marijuana growing operations would face even stricter zoning rules: at
least 2,500 feet from an area zoned for residential use, and the same
distance from any schools or day care centers. Burke and Emanuel want
grower's licenses to be "special uses" requiring zoning appeals board

The state will license 22 growers, one for each State Police district,
as well as up to 60 dispensing centers to be spread across Illinois.
Where growers and sellers could locate will be up to state regulators.
The law says local communities can enforce strict zoning ordinances,
but they can't stop a grower or dispensary from setting up shop in

Under state law, growers will face a 7 percent "privilege tax" on the
sale of each ounce of marijuana plus additional licensing fees at the
state and local levels. Dispensaries will not face that tax but will
be charged licensing fees, according to the Illinois Department of
Revenue. Those taxes and fees will be used to monitor the industry as
it establishes itself in Illinois.

Patients outside the Chicago metro region will be charged a 1 percent
tax for buying the product, the same rate that applies to
pharmaceuticals. But that rate will be higher in Cook County and the
collar counties because of an additional sales tax imposed to help
fund the Regional Transportation Authority. That means a patient
buying medical marijuana in Chicago could face a sales tax as high as
2.25 percent.

State regulators say local governments could not impose additional
sales taxes, but it was unclear Thursday night if municipalities could
tack on other kinds of taxes to help pad their coffers. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D