Naperville has taken the first of several steps needed to place zoning restrictions on possible medical marijuana businesses in the city.
The city council on Tuesday gave its preliminary approval to place limits on where growing and dispensing operations can open.
Council members forwarded zoning changes proposed by city staff members to the planning and zoning commission, making several comments but no official changes.
The proposed restrictions limit businesses defined as cultivation centers or dispensing organizations to industrial parks, set a distance requirement from residential areas and require all medical marijuana operations to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
The possible zoning code updates, which also would prohibit medical marijuana cultivation centers or dispensing organizations from opening in downtown and general commercial areas, would be in addition to restrictions in the state law that allows marijuana to be prescribed to certain patients beginning in January.
State law already restricts cultivation center locations so only 22 businesses can register to grow medical marijuana -- one in each state police district. They cannot be within 2,500 feet of the property line of a school, day care center or residential area.
"Personally, I hope they locate other than in Naperville," Councilman Doug Krause said after voicing concerns about security, parking and regulation of possible growing or dispensing operations.
State regulations leave few available areas in Naperville for cultivation centers, but dispensing organizations may be apt to find a suitable spot. While a pharmacy could apply to sell medical marijuana, it is more likely the drug will be available only at new businesses that open specifically to sell it, said Kristen Foley, senior assistant city attorney.
"As far as dispensing, it's a medication. Period. The whole demonizing of it I think is a fallacy," Councilman Bob Fieseler said. "The time has come for us to make this available to the people who need it in Naperville."
The state prohibits business that will dispense medical marijuana from being located within 1,000 feet of the property line of a school or day care, from opening in any type of residence or residential area and from referring patients to a physician.
The city also is considering prohibiting them from opening downtown or in general commercial areas and allowing only one in each strip mall or group of buildings under the same ownership.
Councilman Steve Chirico said some of the city's industrial areas, such as those on Fifth and Quincy avenues, already have retail businesses and would be suitable for dispensing organizations. If the city does identify industrial areas as the best place for marijuana to be dispensed, he suggested the facilities be allowed outright so each case does not require special approval.
The planning and zoning commission will review the proposed zoning regulations next month before possibly sending them to city council for approval in December.
City Manager Doug Krieger said no medical marijuana businesses have contacted staff about opening a location in Naperville.