Rules and regulations for implementing legalized medical marijuana in Illinois are not expected to come online until the spring, but Kane County officials signaled this week they are ready to begin their own examination of the possible local impacts.
The county board's Development, Public Health and Agriculture committees might all play roles in determining the local rules for unincorporated areas. Municipalities within Kane County have the authority to develop their own requirements. Neither level of government will be able to outright ban the sale or growth of marijuana in their communities. But county officials signaled they might follow the example of nearby cities and villages that have restricted medical marijuana operations to small regions.
"I don't want it here," board member Kurt Kojzarek said during a public meeting this week. "I'm a little disappointed that we're even discussing this. I feel like Nancy Reagan failed us."
County staff members told Kojarek they expect very limited use of medical marijuana in Kane County. There can be only one cultivation farm in Illinois State Police District 2. That district includes Kane, DuPage, Lake and McHenry counties. The odds are much higher that one or several dispensaries will locate in Kane County, staff members said.
Communities such as Naperville, Wheaton and Bartlett have either discussed or already enacted local laws that would limit dispensaries to operating in industrial or manufacturing districts. Kane County is currently eyeing a strategy that would weigh each possible distribution or cultivation center on its own merits.
First, the county has to amend its zoning ordinance to include language addressing marijuana cultivation and dispensary centers. Development Director Mark VanKerkhoff is recommending making those businesses a "special use" in the zoning codes.
"That's our leading strategy," VanKerkhoff said. "That will give you, as a board, the most control over where they would be located if the new state rules allow for such a special use process. Whoever applies for these permits is going to be in a competitive use process."
Indeed, the state law only allows for a maximum of 60 dispensaries in all of Illinois.
The zoning may only be the first level of regulation Kane County gets involved in. Dispensaries in other states typically sell marijuana in edible forms. That means inspections by the Kane County Health Department.
Board member Melisa Taylor said she will be on the lookout for any ways the county can make money from the new medical marijuana businesses. The new money will be necessary to offset new administrative, and possibly law enforcement, costs that will arise, she said. County staff members said there does not currently seem to be a way to create a special county sales tax on the businesses.
Board member Theresa Barrerio said the county must focus its attention on what it can do to oversee any local medical marijuana operations rather than fight against established state law.
"Coming from a family that's had chronic illnesses, I understand it," Barrerio said. "I think it's here now, and I don't think we can really do too much with it because it is state approved."