Pubdate: Wed, 27 Apr 2016
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2016 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Hal Dardick


Burke Teams Up With Donor on Zoning Proposal

Medical marijuana dispensaries would be allowed in the Loop under a 
change to Chicago zoning regulations pitched by Ald. Ed Burke and a 
campaign contributor he once helped nearly double his state pension 
through a one-month sweetheart deal.

Former-state-lawmaker-turned-lobbyist Robert Molaro told the City 
Council Zoning Committee on Tuesday about the roadblock that pot 
dispensaries now face: They're technically allowed in some Loop 
areas, but the potential sites are within 1,000 feet of a school or 
day-care facility, and that rules them out under state law.

Tweaking zoning classifications would open up some downtown 
locations, provided the would-be owners managed to get a special-use 
permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals, Molaro told aldermen. 
Securing such a permit requires a public hearing, and nearby 
residents and property owners can weigh in.

Molaro said he has been retained as an attorney for Maribis of 
Chicago, which has already gained approval to open a dispensary in 
Burke's Southwest Side ward. Burke, 14th, maintained that not 
allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in the Loop "may not make any 
real sense" and could have been an "oversight" of those who drafted 
the initial regulations.

Burke and Molaro have a long-standing political relationship. After 
Molaro left the General Assembly, , he went to work for Burke for a 
month. Molaro was paid $12,000 to write a 19-page paper about 
Chicago's ailing pension funds. The extra month of work nearly 
doubled Molaro's pension to more than $120,000 a year, the Tribune found.

Since Molaro's resignation from the legislature, his lobbying firm 
has contributed $3,000 to Burke's 14th Ward Regular Democratic 
Organization and $3,200 to the Friends of Edward M. Burke campaign 
fund, state campaign finance reports show.

Also supporting the medical pot proposal was 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan 
Reilly, whose ward includes most of the Loop. Reilly said it would 
open up five or six spots in the Loop as possible locations for a dispensary.

"Very sick people who need this to treat their conditions are being 
forced (to go to) less accessible areas of the city," Reilly said.

"There are a number of community controls still in place," Reilly 
added, referring to the special-use permit process. "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."

The full council is expected to consider the change next month.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom