CITY HALL — Medical marijuana supporters say the latest effort by aldermen to regulate the industry in Chicago will make it almost impossible for medical-marijuana dispensaries and cultivation centers to operate in the city.
Ald. Edward Burke (14th) proposed at Wednesday's City Council meeting that dispensaries and grow facilities hire round-the-clock security, and also keep all deliveries out of sight of the public.
"In other words, we want to make absolutely sure these products are properly protected and that these cannabis-infused products are not out in public view," Burke said in a statement.
Ald. Danny Solis (25th), chairman of the Zoning Committee, who co-sponsored the ordinance, added that dispensaries and cultivation centers would have to prove compliance with the ordinance before they'd be granted a special-use permit by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Burke has frequently fussed about the state law allowing medical marijuana and has previously said he wants to "limit it in an extreme degree."
"These requirements do sound onerous for businesses, and could drive up costs for patients," said Morgan Fox, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbied for the state law permitting medical marijuana. "So far, the available data has shown that the presence of dispensaries does not increase crime in the surrounding neighborhoods, and the increased traffic and security measures can actually make nearby areas more safe. However, the fact that such businesses are denied the ability to work with banks and credit-card companies means that they are forced to operate on a cash-only basis, potentially making them attractive targets to criminals. A change in federal law allowing marijuana businesses to access these services would go a long way to improving the safety of the industry."
The proposed ordinance would require Chicago medical-marijuana facilities to hire a licensed private security firm for 24-hour-a-day protection, and that "transportation, loading and unloading of any cannabis or cannabis-related products shall be conducted ... in a secure loading area and shall not be visible to the general public."
The state has authorized 13 dispensaries within the city limits but none has yet been cleared for business in Chicago. Cook County is permitted to have one cultivation center under state law, which Fox said is strict enough.
"The regulations imposed on businesses by the Department of Agriculture and the DFPR are more than sufficient to protect the interests of Illinois and its citizens, he said. "It is already likely existing regulations will create a huge financial burden on seriously ill patients. The program isn't even up and running, so it is premature to impose further restrictions on what is already one of the most heavily regulated programs in the country. We would hope the Alderman isn't simply trying to impose so many restrictions that they amount to a ban, particularly when voters and the legislature clearly want to provide reasonable access."
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