Health company eyes Waukegan for medical marijuana dispensary

At least one business is already eyeing Waukegan for the location of a medical marijuana dispensary as the city works on drafting local regulations for the state’s looming Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program.

Because of that interest from a company called Vera Health LLC, the City Council this week backed off a planned six-month moratorium on approvals for cannabis dispensaries, opting instead for a 45-day window to get an ordinance on the books.

C. Jeffrey Thut, a Libertyville attorney representing the company, said a six-month delay would have extended beyond the state’s anticipated start of reviewing dispensary applications.

“Waukegan is one of the locations they’re looking at. (Six months) pretty much would have taken Waukegan out of the running,” Thut said outside the Monday, July 7, City Council meeting. “Right now, a realistic timeframe for the rules to come out of the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation is late August, early September, and the rules as they’re written right now say that applications have to be in within 45 days of the final rules by the state.

“In order to submit an application, you need an address and a location and you need a letter from the landlord saying, ‘I’m OK with having a dispensary here,’ and you need a letter from the zoning authority saying ‘it fits within our zoning.’ If we had a six-month moratorium, it just wouldn’t work,” Thut added.

Signed by Gov. Pat Quinn in August 2013, the act allows for up to 60 medical marijuana dispensaries across the state as part of a four-year pilot program. It also allows for up to 21 marijuana growing centers, one for each Illinois State Police District, minus the Illinois Tollway District.

State and local regulations have been taking shape since last summer, with statewide rules released this spring calling for dispensary applicants to submit a $5,000 non-refundable application fee along with proof of $400,000 in liquid assets.

In March, the Lake County Board approved regulations for unincorporated areas that, among other provisions, prohibit dispensaries from being within 1,000 feet of schools and day care centers, or within 500 feet a pre-existing residential area, place of worship, park or forest preserve.

With the state law requiring municipalities to enact regulations that do not “unreasonably prohibit” establishment of dispensaries or cultivation centers, Waukegan Building Commissioner Dave Marion said the city plans to draft a local version in coming weeks.

According to Thut, the backers of the would-be Waukegan dispensary are all Lake County residents who are “interested in promoting whole health and programs well beyond just dispensing medicinal (marijuana).”

“The next step is for Waukegan to tell us a location that would be acceptable to them,” Thut said. “We would then go out and find a space within that location and ensure the property owner (is) giving permission to run a dispensary.

“There’s no guarantee that people are going to absolutely be able to get a license. We just want to be able to apply for it, and if Waukegan’s a great spot for us, and we think that it probably is, we want to explore that.”

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