Pubdate: Wed, 27 Apr 2016
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2016 Sun-Times Media, LLC
Author: Fran Spielman


Medical marijuana dispensaries would be permitted in a wider swath of 
downtown Chicago thanks to a zoning change advanced Tuesday at the 
behest of the City Council's most powerful alderman.

Ald. Edward Burke ( 14th) persuaded the City Council's Zoning 
Committee to allow dispensaries in the zoning district known as the 
"downtown core."

Currently, there are four zoning districts in downtown Chicago: 
residential; mixed-use; service; and the area known as the downtown 
core. That last category includes office buildings, residential high- 
rises, stores, theaters and government buildings.

On Tuesday, Burke argued that there was no "compelling justification" 
for the ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in the downtown core; 
they would still be prohibited in areas zoned residential.

"To continue to permit the code to prohibit these organizations from 
locating in this one downtown core district may not make any real 
sense," Burke said.

Former Democratic state Sen. Robert Molaro, now representing the 
owner of a medical marijuana dispensary, urged the Zoning Committee 
to relax the restrictions.

"There were about five or six [ locations] in the downtown core area. 
But, when they went to apply, they were told the ordinance prohibits" 
medical marijuana dispensaries there, Molaro said.

"When we talked to intergovernmental affairs, the mayor's office, 
Burke's office, the crafters of the bill and the corporation counsel, 
no one knew why that was done. It was an oversight. We checked with 
everybody, and no one seems to have a problem allowing the downtown 
core to go in."

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly ( 42nd) had no objections either. In 
fact, the new rules address the very concerns that Reilly raised 
during the City Council's initial debate about how to implement the 
state's medical marijuana law.

"I made a few observations about the zoning constraints and the fact 
that very sick people who need this to treat their conditions are 
being forced to purchase it in, let's just say, less accessible areas 
of the city," Reilly said.

"It's not easy to reach for a lot of people, especially for the 
elderly. Downtown where we have these DC [ downtown core] zoning 
districts, it's surrounded by medical facilities - hospitals where 
people are seeing their doctors and ostensibly getting these 
prescriptions. One would hope that they could then also have 
accessibility to these medications in a centralized location. When it 
was pointed out to me that the DC class didn't allow for this as an 
option, I agreed this is something that should be changed."

Reilly noted that "community controls" remain in place, even with the change.

Medical marijuana dispensaries still have to be at least 1,000 feet 
away from a school or day care center. And they still need to get 
approval from the local alderman as well as special-use permits from 
the Zoning Board of Appeals.

"This will still require a public process and community input because 
a special use will be needed. And there aren't a whole lot of places 
in the downtown area where this would be available anyway because we 
do have so many schools and child care facilities. So I think this is 
an appropriate change," Reilly said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom