Oak Lawn readies for possible medical pot shop
BY STEVE METSCH email@example.com August 14, 2014 7:40PM
Oak Lawn village attorney Patrick Connelly (left) discusses medicinal marijuana guidelines with trustees Terry Vorderer (4th) and Carol Quinlan (5th) on Tuesday night. | Steve Metsch/Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 16, 2014 6:40AM
Oak Lawn likely will get a dispensary for medical marijuana, but the question is where will it be located.
During a village board committee meeting Tuesday night, trustees debated where a dispensary would be best suited for the village, noting that one cannot be within 1,000 feet of a school or in a residential area.
That likely limits possible sites to busy commercial streets such as Cicero Avenue, 95th Street, 87th Street and Southwest Highway, but many sites on those streets won’t qualify because of the many schools in the village.
“We’re looking for feedback,” Mayor Sandra Bury said during the meeting.
Village attorney Patrick Connelly said the state will determine where the 60 dispensaries allowed under the medical marijuana law can be located statewide, but it’s up to each municipality granted one to decide on its location.
Under the law, cultivation centers, where the marijuana is grown, cannot be within 2,500 feet of schools, daycare centers or residential areas. There’s only one cultivation center allowed in each of the state’s 22 state police districts, according to the Illinois Municipal League.
Trustee Carol Quinlan, 5th, said a medical pot dispensary should not be allowed near the Oak Lawn Children’s Museum.
Trustee Terry Vorderer, 4th, agreed, saying “who wants to have a store selling marijuana by the museum?”
Vorderer, a former Oak Lawn police officer, said he preferred restricting the dispensaries to industrial areas rather than retail sections and expressed concern about them drawing crime because they will be cash-only businesses, citing potential robberies of customers.
Police Chief Michael Murray said he had the same crime concerns.
“The amount they allow per sale is considerable, 21/2 ounces per transaction, and that’s a lot. You can fill a freezer bag halfway to two-thirds with that,” Murray said.
The law allows 21/2 ounces per person every two weeks, but the state health department may grant a waiver for a patient to obtain additional amounts, according to the Illinois Municipal League.
Trustee Bob Streit, 3rd, raised the issue of possible litigation against the village if it overly restricts dispensary sites, but Connelly said “as long as zoning is not made arbitrarily, you can alleviate the concern.”
Trustee Alex Olejniczak, 2nd, added some humor to the discussion. After Trustee Tim Desmond, 1st, asked if Oak Lawn having a medical pot shop could attract other businesses, Olejniczak said, “a brownie shop?”
Quinlan asked if a dispensary’s business hours could be restricted, and Connelly said they could within reason, adding that “there are numerous zoning tools at your disposal.”
The issue is expected to be further discussed Monday by the village’s planning and development commission.