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Homewood board enables medical cannabis use in industrial zone

If a medical cannabis dispensary wishes to begin operation in Homewood, it will need to find a home in the M (industrial) zone.

By a 4 to 2 vote Tuesday, Aug. 12, the village board of trustees approved medical cannabis dispensaries as a permitted use in the M zone, which runs from Dixie Highway and Harwood Avenue, along Maple Road and 175th Street on the north side of the village.

Village Manager Jim Marino introduced the measure, MC-911, and noted its purpose would be to restrict where dispensaries can be located. 

“We don’t have the authority to prohibit these dispensaries from coming in, but we can say where they are located,” Marino said.

The ordinance technically includes medical cannabis cultivation centers, too, but for practical reasons none are likely to locate in Homewood, according to village officials. State law requires cultivation centers to be located at least 2,500 feet from schools, daycare centers and residential areas.

Marino said village staff looked at other zoning possibilities, including B-4, the Halsted Street business corridor, with special use permit requirement, but concluded that M was the zone with the most adequate space and parking available.

One trustee who voted against the measure, Ray Robertson, cited the move away from a special use permit requirement among his concerns. 

“This is the first time in the 10 years I’ve been on this board that the board has gone against staff advice,” he said. He noted that the Planning Commission and Zone Board of Appeals approved the measure with a special use provision.

He also expressed concern about an increase in crime should a dispensary locate in Homewood.

“You can find endless number of articles from other states that gang members are involved in robberies of both the clientele and the facilities,” he said. “I’m just saying, ‘Do we want this in Homewood?'”

He said the cannabis dispensed for medical use will be more potent than marijuana typically sold on the street and said he worries unscrupulous registered medical cannabis users could distribute the drug to unregistered users.

Robertson’s concern about crime was shared by Homewood Police Chief Lawrence Burnson. After a citizen at the meeting asked what local law enforcement’s position on the issue was, Burnson noted that the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police had opposed the state’s medical cannabis law, and he, too, is concerned about a potential increase in crime.

“My concern is the safety of this community,” he said. “The (state) law is passed. So if (a dispensary) does come to Homewood, I want it in a location where I feel the community is at its safest. The manufacturing district makes the most sense.”

The other “no” vote was cast by Trustee Jay Heiferman, but for different reasons than Robertson’s.

“The State of Illinois specified acceptable controls,” he said. “The Village of Homewood restricting zoning to ‘industrial use’ areas is not compassionate to the patients.”

Heiferman said he does not expect the feared increase in crime to occur. 

“I think in a few years we’re going to look back and wonder what the big deal was,” he said.

Mike Graham, with Mother Earth Holistic Health and an advocate for medical cannabis, shared Heiferman’s views on the ordinance. 

“I don’t know if it was in the best interest of the patients,” he said, noting that the likely locations in the M zone are some blocks from the nearest bus stop, and that could be a problem for low-income patients who are dealing with pain. 

He did welcome the removal of the special use permit requirement, but he said that was a matter of timing. He doesn’t object to special use permits in general, but the approval involves several stages and can take some time to complete. The initial state application for medical cannabis dispensary permits will have a very narrow window, Sept. 8 through Sept. 22, he said.

Several of the trustees who voted in favor of the zoning designation noted that they saw it as a compromise.

Trustee Tom Kataras asked about two concerns, the amount of cash dispensaries might have on hand and the length of time for the state’s pilot program.

Graham said money would not be kept in dispensaries for more than two days, and Joy Grainge, a medical cannabis advocate representing Medical Cannabis Education Association, noted that security would be a top priority for dispensary operators.

“People who invest in dispensaries — they are putting a lot of money in there, so they are going to have top of the line security. The state and local regulations insist that we have top of the line security,” she said.

Village Attorney Christopher Cummings said the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act expires four years after its effective date. 

Grainge, who has lived in Homewood 13 years, disagreed with the claim that crime goes up near medical cannabis dispensaries. She said studies have shown the opposite, making cannabis use safer for patients.

“Part of that is because you’re getting the medicine out of the hands of the criminals, and we’re going to a place that is more like a pharmacy,” she said.

In other business, the board approved:

  • a resolution honoring Mark Phalen for 20 years service to the village as a member of the Homewood Police Department,
  • witnessed the oath of office administered to new Deputy Fire Chief Steven de Jong,
  • witnessed the oath of office administered to Robert Misner as sergeant for the Homewood Police Department,
  • the sale of surplus equipment,
  • a bid waiver on the purchase of two 2014 Ford F150 pickup trucks for $37,842,
  • a budget amendment transferring $10,450 from the sewer lining fund to IT Services,
  • an agreement with Cartegraph Systems Inc. for OMS software at $17,400,
  • an agreement with Richard Haas for a new mural on the south facing wall of 18219 Dixie Highway,
  • an agreement with Thomas Melvin Painting Studio for the new Haas mural at 18219 Dixie Highway,
  • a new liquor license class, 4B, for wine and beer sales in a restaurant with no video gaming devices,
  • an ordinance providing for issuing $1.7 million in general obligation bonds for capital infrastructure and equipment funding,
  • a class 8 property tax designation for the property at 925 175th Street, owned by Fleet Park LLC,
  • a Go Green tax increment financing incentive program designation for Rick Thomas, owner of 18154 Martin Ave. to help with installation of energy efficient windows.

More information:
Homewood zoning ordinance amendment
Homewood Board of Trustees Aug. 12 agenda
Homewood Board of Trustees Aug. 12 minutes

Related stories:
Medical cannabis advocates hope to open dispensary in Homewood (The Chronicle, July 21, 2014)
Chicago suburbs adjust to medical marijuana (Chicago Tribune, Aug. 28, 2014)

Contact Eric Crump at [email protected]

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