Buffalo Grove could get Lake County's first marijuana dispensary

Buffalo Grove could become the first community in Lake County to host a medical marijuana dispensary.

A company called Midwest Releaf, based in Gurnee, wants to open the dispensary in an industrial area of Buffalo Grove near Milwaukee and Aptakisic - leasing two-thirds of a 15,000-square-foot building at 1477 Barclay Blvd.

However, even if Buffalo Grove approves the petition, that's no guarantee they'll get it. Companies that want to sell marijuana legally in Illinois have to be approved by the state, and Illinois hasn't made applications available yet.

Illinois allows patients to be treated with medical marijuana for 32 qualifying conditions. The state created 60 dispensary districts, three of which are in Lake County. Only one dispensary can be approved in each district, so if multiple companies want to sell, they'll have to compete for one license.

Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said applications could be available by the end of the month and companies need approval before they're legit.

Curt Innes, president of Midwest Releaf, emphasized their aim is to minister to the needs of patients, not just make money.

"We're not high volume," he said. "We're not recreational. And we're not the McDonald's of marijuana."

Patients are allotted a maximum of 2.5 ounces every 14 days.

Midwest Releaf Operations Manager Jim Fischer said the firm will employ state of the art electronic and video surveillance, and have security personnel on premises during operating hours, 6 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays and some Saturday hours.

Security provisions include a metal detector, a segregated restricted area accessible with a security card and bulletproof glass in the front area.

He added that Midwest Releaf wants to work closely with local law enforcement, as well as Illinois State Police, to make sure it is fulfilling its security obligations.

Fischer said they expect an average of six to eight patients an hour. More than half a million patients in the U.S. are being treated with medical marijuana for some type of ailment or debilitating disease or condition, he added.

Patients have the option of procuring tinctures and oils, as well as the solid product that is smoked or vaporized.

Patients with a qualifying medical condition must be at least 18 and must demonstrate that they live in Illinois to get marijuana from Midwest Releaf. The state requires they go through a fingerprint-based criminal background check involving the FBI and the Illinois State Police.

The village board referred the petition Monday to the planning and zoning commission. While the village cannot, by law, deny the use on its face, it can require the facility to conform to zoning regulations - like making sure the dispensary is at least 1,000 feet away from schools, day cares and residential areas.

Trustees asked mainly technical questions. Village President Jeffrey Braiman suggested Midwest Releaf might boost the number of disabled parking spaces. State sales taxes would apply to all marijuana sales, but the business is exempted from local sales taxes, according to Village Attorney William Raysa.

Meanwhile, Innes said, the firm has a letter of intent on the property and is working with investors on financing. They do not yet have a license from the state, but Raysa said they first need the zoning from Buffalo Grove.

Trustee Jeffrey Berman could not resist a pun, saying the planning and zoning commission would walk Midwest Releaf through the steps, "To ensure that this is a proper location for this and - I have got to do this - make sure they are not blowing smoke."

Innes said his firm also envisions expanding its use of the facility eventually to include a research and development center.

"We have a very seasoned team," Innes added. "We have individuals doing this for what I would say is the right reason. We're doing it to give back to people that are in need."

• Political Editor Mike Riopell contributed to this report.

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