Legislation / Politics

Westmont officials voted against a proposal for a medical marijuana dispensary at 772 Burr Oak Drive. (Joseph Ruzich, for the Chicago Tribune)
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Westmont mayor breaks tie, votes against marijuana dispensary

Sep 14, 2014


Westmont Mayor Ron Gunter broke a tie vote against a proposal for a medical marijuana dispensary in the suburb..
At a village board meeting on Sept. 4, Gunter told trustees after a 3-to-3 vote that he must vote against the dispensary and follow the advice of Village Attorney John Zemenak, who believes an institution near the proposed facility is defined as a school.
State law doesn't allow marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a school. Zemenak told the village board that The School Association for Special Education in DuPage County at 825 N. Cass Ave. serves special needs students ages 3 to 21 years old.
State officials allegedly told Green Healing LLC, the dispensary group, that the institution is not defined as a school. Green Healing was seeking to open up a marijuana dispensary at a nearby facility at 772 Burr Oak Drive.
"I have to vote no," Gunter said "I have to listen to our attorney."
Trustee James Addington said he also has to vote against the dispensary because of its proposed location.
"I am a caregiver, and (I help a sick man) every day," Addington said. "He needs this (medical marijuana). But I will not vote for it because of SASED. I believe it's the wrong place."
The mayor and some other trustees also had concerns that the dispensary was located too close to Ty Warner Park.
Trustees Bob Scott, Harold Barry and Steve Nero voted in favor of the dispensary. "I would say there are worse drugs in the community than what we are dealing with here," Scott said. "How many pharmacies do we have in the community? There are all sorts of drugs people get there that are worse."
Dispensary groups have also approached village officials in the neighboring suburb of Willowbrook. At an upcoming village board meeting on Sept. 22, trustees there must decide the proper zoning area for potential dispensaries.
Tim Halik, Willowbrook's village administrator, said the plan commission recently voted 3 to 3 on the zoning area for dispensaries. Halik said one group felt they should require a special use in industrial districts and the other group wanted to allow them in all non-residential areas, including retail districts.
"There was a disagreement which rarely, if ever, happens with our plan commission," Halik said. "The village board will now have to make the final decision."
Halik said the village has been approached by three dispensary groups. "Some of the groups are coming out of the Colorado area and are really well funded," Halik said. "(Their presentations) were very impressive. I learned a lot."
There can also be up to 60 dispensaries, which are supposed to be spread out across Illinois. State officials will only allow three dispensaries in DuPage County. Dispensary groups have recently been swarming communities for prospective locations due to an application requirement to list the location of the facility, according to dispensary officials.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed the medical marijuana law last year, which allows for the legal possession, use and sale of marijuana for some 40 medical conditions, including HIV, AIDS and cancer. The law is more restrictive than those in some other states, where use of the drug is allowed for catchall categories like chronic pain.
The Illinois law also requires that patients have an existing relationship with a physician who can provide documentation to support the medical need to use the drug.
The law allows for 22 marijuana cultivation centers with a maximum of one in each state police district.

Source:  Chicago Tribune

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