Rolling Meadows could open door to marijuana dispensaries along Golf, Algonquin roads

Amid increasing interest from recreational marijuana businesses, Rolling Meadows officials are exploring whether to allow dispensaries to operate in and around the shopping areas of Algonquin and Golf roads.

Proposed changes to city zoning rules would allow the pot shops in commercially zoned areas east of New Wilke Road with approval of a special use permit by the city council.

Currently, the council can vote to approve dispensaries only within manufacturing zoning districts. The city's lone dispensary, Nature's Care, is in such a district - on the north side of town at 975 Rohlwing Road.

But in recent months, officials say, the city staff has been fielding more and more inquiries from marijuana dispensaries seeking locations on the south side - primarily along the busy commercial corridors of Algonquin and Golf roads.

On Tuesday night, the city's planning and zoning commission unanimously recommended changes to the city code that could open the door to those businesses. The recommendation to the city council, which will consider the new zoning rules Feb. 22, follows an initial Jan. 18 committee-level discussion by Mayor Joe Gallo and aldermen, who showed an openness to expanding the boundaries of where stores could go.

"It's not an advocacy of cannabis or any other vice, but there have been (state) legislative changes and it's time that we do look at these subjects with eliminated hypocrisy around them in the context of other vices," Gallo said. "Again, I'm not condoning any one vice by any means and I'm not saying to ignore the adverse effects that any one vice can offer. But specifically with cannabis, we know we can go to a grocery store that backs up to a school and you can pick up a case of alcohol or go to a gas station on the corner and pick up a case of alcohol or a pack of cigarettes."

The proposed code amendments would allow any dispensary east of New Wilke to be within 1,000 feet of a home, school or day care. The separation requirement would remain in place in the manufacturing areas.

Alderman Kevin O'Brien said allowing dispensaries near housing is consistent with the council's earlier approval of video gambling.

"I know it's in our jurisdiction as the council ... but I could see us getting in some hot water quickly saying, 'Yep, we'll allow two gaming places facing the residential, but no, dispensaries, you can't,'" O'Brien said.

The new city rules also would allow the stores in multi-tenant strip mall buildings - of which there are a number along Algonquin and Golf.

Beyond dispensaries, Gallo tasked the city staff to research marijuana cultivation centers and lounges, since he said operators have reached out to him and are interested in Rolling Meadows.

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