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Will County approves medical marijuana zoning changes

Dispensaries would have to seek special permission from county

Medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated Will County would need special use permits, despite one county board member's argument that the restriction could inhibit business opportunities.

The county board on Thursday added the special use permit to its zoning rules for future medical marijuana dispensaries.

The original zoning proposal, approved by the Land Use and Development Committee earlier this month, did not require dispensaries to seek a special use permit through the county. The permit requirement means dispensaries will need county board approval before getting zoning.

Cultivation centers, where marijuana would be grown, could be located within the county’s two agricultural and three industrial zoning districts. Special use permits are not required for cultivation centers.

Dispensaries, which will be basically marijuana pharmacies, would be allowed in the county’s two agricultural, four commercial, and three industrial districts.

The vote was 18-6 for special use permits with Speaker Herbert Brooks Jr., D-Joliet, abstaining from a vote.

Ron Howard, D-Beecher, voted against the newest changes, arguing they send the wrong message to the business community.

“Basically, this is a business, especially in agricultural communities. I don't think that we should restrict them. This is no different than any other medical dispensary," Howard said. "I think this will prohibit a possible entity from coming in here and doing business. With the income potential on this, I think that we should look at this and make it as easy as possible for a business and for Will County."

Proposed rules call for 66 dispensaries throughout the state, including a maximum of three dispensaries each in DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will counties. The law also allows for 22 growing centers throughout the state.

Republican Caucus Chair Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort, said just as liquor stores, home businesses and firearms salespeople are required to obtain special use permits from the county to do business, medical marijuana dispensaries should, too.

“And now, you're suggesting to put no rules on cannabis being sold? I disagree,” Moustis said. “Every site could potentially be different. And I do think we should have the ability to weigh in and understand that one size does not fit all here. There needs to be reasonable conditions. We should not be saying everybody can do what they want.”

Tom Weigel, R-New Lenox, who chairs the Land Use and Development Committee, said it's important to note cultivation centers will not be required to obtain special use permits. He said that's where the county could expect to bring in more income.

Under the ordinance, dispensaries and cultivation centers would need to be a certain distance away from schools and residential areas.

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