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Woodstock OKs zoning, special use request from medical marijuana dispensary

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014 11:58 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 12:01 a.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – The City Council decided late Tuesday night to alter zoning and grant a special use request for a medical marijuana dispensary at 2300-2312 S. Eastwood Drive, Woodstock.

Voting against the measure were council members Julie Dillon and Maureen Larson. Voting in favor were RB Thompson, Joseph Starzynski, Michael Turner and Mayor Brian Sager. Council member Mark Saladin was absent.

The approval does not make establishment of a dispensary imminent, but does allow petitioner 4500 NW Highway LLC to move forward with an application to the state of Illinois.

That application, if successful, likely will mean that Woodstock will be home to the only such dispensary in the county because of state regulations regarding their total number and location.

Like all of the council members, Dillon said she supported medical marijuana being made available to those who need it. Her concerns, she said, centered on the amount of security she believes would be required to manage a dispensary.“We’re pretty much out in the middle of nowhere,” she said. “I don’t want to look out at night to see the glow of bright security lights for a medical marijuana dispensary – a ballfield, yes, but not this.”

Larson said she wasn’t sure approving a medical marijuana dispensary was the sort of leading-edge decision residents would support.

“My belief is that residents probably would rather we push the front edge of technology, education, manufacturing …” she said.

Council members heard from the attorney representing the petitioners, Tom Zanck, from a representative of Family Guidance Centers, which would provide the personnel to operate the facility, and from a young woman who spoke about the serious maladies medical marijuana has been shown to successfully treat. About 20 residents attended the meeting.

A few asked questions and raised concerns. But none asked the council to vote against the measure.

The council did attach to its approval a list of conditions suggested by the Substance Abuse Coalition. They include: no lighted sign; no exterior images depicting marijuana leafs, plants or products; limiting window signs to stating hours of operation and whether the dispensary is open or closed; no public advertising of the facility; a sign noting that no one under age 18 may enter; enhanced exterior lighting; an approved security plan; and security cameras.

The state of Illinois approved a medical marijuana pilot program last summer. The law sunsets in January 2018. Those who wish to acquire medical marijuana must have a prescription, and must apply to the state for a state ID.

Sam Borek, attorney for Family Guidance Centers, said Illinois’ law is highly restrictive.

Sager said approving the measures allowing the proposal to move forward was the right thing to do for people who need medical marijuana. The state has defined 33 maladies for which it may be prescribed, including cancer, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and more.

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