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La Grange board looks at medical marijuana dispensary opportunity

LA GRANGE – The La Grange Board of Trustees reviewed and discussed the results of a zoning standard study on regulations for selling medical marijuana in the village during their April 28 board meeting.

The study – conducted by village staff and the Plan Commission – stated that a medical marijuana dispensary cannot be located near child care centers, schools or residential zoned areas, according to Village Attorney Betsy Gates.

"The vast majority of the properties in La Grange are ruled out as a potential location for a dispensary," Gates said. "However, there are some areas that are open to locating a dispensary."

In terms of the surrounding areas, 11 dispensaries will be allowed throughout Cook County outside of the city of Chicago, according to Gates. She said one dispensary is allocated for a three township area, which includes Lyons, Palos and Lemont Townships.

"It's not a certainty that the dispensary would be located in La Grange," Gates said. "But it's certainly a possibility and something the board should consider anticipating with zoning regulations."

Three zoning districts were identified as possible dispensary locations: the C-1 central commercial district, C-3 general service commercial district and I-1 light industrial district.

If a dispensary were to open in the area, state law would set the business' hours of operation – which would be between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. – and require extensive security measures, including video surveillance and alarm systems, according to Gates.

The village's approach up to this point is fairly similar with that of neighboring communities, according to Gates, who said no sales tax would be generated from the dispensary.

Although two of the six trustees were absent for the meeting, trustees were very vocal on the discussion.

Trustee Jeff Nowak described it as a fascinating issue, but said the board will need more information to determine which path to take.

"We have to remember who we represent," Nowak said. "My sense is that La grange residents do not want us to be on the cutting edge of having a medical marijuana dispensary in our village."

For both good and bad reasons, trustee David McCarty said the village should be in front of this issue.

"[Medical marijuana facilities] are really quite the hot topic now," said McCarty. "The money they're talking about generating is just phenomenal.

"I think it's an interesting study and I'm glad we're having an opportunity to look at it."

Western Springs resident Tanya Griffin spoke on behalf of her group of physicians who hope to own and operate a La Grange-based dispensary. Griffin said the group is interested in a property at 120 E. Burlington Ave.

"The building is very suitable to our needs if you're open to that location," Griffin said, who later added her group would not want to join a community that was not 100 percent accepting of a medical marijuana facility.

"... Our experience and ability to not only be a viable candidate for the application and to run a successful medical [marijuana] dispensary is sound," Griffin said.

As for a timeline, the matter is scheduled to be formally brought before the board for action at the May 12 meeting.

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