CITY HALL — A council committee set basic zoning limits for medical marijuana dispensaries and a cultivation center Tuesday.
State law set a 1,000-foot buffer for dispensaries to be removed from schools, day-care centers and residential areas, and set a 2,500-foot buffer for a cultivation center. A distance of 2,500 feet is about four and a half blocks, according to Patricia Scudiero, of the Zoning Department.
When the city added that the building could not also be a residence to anyone, that left precious little of the city available.
"These guys are gonna have to go to school," Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) said, just to determine where they could possibly set up business.
But Rose Kelly of the city Law Department said the restrictions were necessary.
"We are making reasonable zoning restrictions on where these things can be located," said Kelly.
The state law, said Ald. Edward Burke (14th), is in many ways "self-restricting." It allows one cultivation center in Cook County, and 13 dispensaries in the city allotted by township, one or two to each one in Chicago.
The city zoning law would additionally limit dispensaries primarily to higher-rated business and commercial districts and a cultivation center primarily to manufacturing areas as an "indoor urban farm." Both would require a special-use permit for the city.
But that's where things get complicated if they weren't already. Scudiero laid out a basic procedure in which she would write a letter determining if a selected site applied under the zoning rules. The proposed business owner would then take it to the state, which will allot the dispensaries based on need as determined by the number of people eligible to receive medical marijuana in a certain township. The business owner, if selected, would then have to go back to the city to get a special-use permit, although that person could also seek one first to streamline the process.
"That would be up to the applicant to figure out," Kelly said.
The state wants to begin dispensing medical marijuana in January, Scudiero said, meaning a cultivation center will need to be selected and up and running before that. The state only just clarified basic standards July 15, she added, which allowed the city to move to this next step.
Aldermen asked about hospitals in medical districts serving as dispensaries, but Scudiero said in most cases that would be ruled out by nearby residential areas. She said Swedish Covenant Hospital, for one, would be ruled out because it has a day-care center on site.
The Zoning Committee passed the city zoning amendment without opposition and sent it to the full City Council for approval Wednesday.
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