WHEATON– Wheaton will soon join a number of other municipalities in Illinois by passing restrictions on the state's medical marijuana bill, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014.
During a City Council planning session Oct. 14, the council, with the exception of Mayor Mike Gresk, who was not present, decided to schedule a vote on the addition of regulations to the statewide code for dispensaries.
Currently, there are no city restrictions, but state law dictates that such dispensaries cannot operate within 1,000 feet of a school or day care and are not allowed on residential use property.
"[The state law] is extremely limited and highly regulated," said Jim Kozik, director of planning and economic development.
The restrictions on cultivation centers for growing marijuana are even stricter, he said, and would make it "not a viable operation" in Wheaton.
While municipalities are not allowed to prohibit the facilities outright, Kozik recommended that the council limit the scope of allowed dispensary locations to the few city manufacturing districts.
Kozik said that, while there are several commercial areas where dispensaries could be located, several other communities have treated medical marijuana similarly to other "adult use" properties.
The city would join nearby Downers Grove, where the Village Plan Commission recently voted to recommend adding medical marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries to the list of allowable special uses in areas zoned for light manufacturing.
Council member John Prendiville said that he supported the restriction, saying that the council could "always expand" the zoning depending on the demand and success of the program.
Council member John Rutledge added that if larger pharmaceutical companies such as CVS or Walgreen's decided to serve as dispensaries, he would be in favor of further relaxing the city rules.
"We can expand it easier than we can contract it," Rutledge said.
Todd Scalzo was the only council member that spoke against further restrictions, saying the municipality should "let the state statute speak for itself."
"The statutory restrictions, the geographic restrictions are kind of irrelevant in a way," he said. "Either way, there would be access. Either way, it's legal. Either way, it's highly restricted."