Questions remain about medical marijuana locations proposed for Naperville
Of all the questions that remain about the beginning of medical marijuana sales in Illinois, the "Who?" and the "Where?" seem to be first on the minds of area officials.
Who will win the state licenses to sell the drug to qualified patients? And where will the businesses be?
The debate centers around location, location, location in Naperville, where officials have heard from two businesses that want to sell medical marijuana in the city if their license applications are approved.
The first business, 3C Compassionate Care, chose a location at 1701 Quincy Ave. in an industrial area where such a use is automatically allowed under the regulations Naperville approved last December. But concerns are surfacing about the appropriateness of a medical marijuana seller on Quincy, where several kid-friendly businesses are located, such as Goldfish Swim School, Players Indoor Sports, Bollywood Rhythms dance studio and Kidz Kabaret children's theater.
"I think it's a needed facility," Kidz Kabaret Executive Director Kandis Hernandez said about a potential medical marijuana dispensary, where chronically ill patients with certain disorders could buy the drug to help ease their pain. "However, this is no longer an industrial road. This is a road of kids, of kids activities."
The second business, Greenway Herbal Care, wants to set up shop in a general commercial area at 424 Fort Hill Drive, where medical marijuana facilities only are allowed if they receive conditional approval. Further discussions on the request, brought by Hoffman Estates businessman Nilesh Khot, are unlikely until January, said Ying Liu, Naperville community planner.
3C and Greenway are among 23 applicants for three licenses to sell medical marijuana in DuPage County. The state has told applicants such as Traci Fernandez of 3C Compassionate Care that license decisions could be made in late November or early December. So for now, she said, it's a waiting game.
Naperville City Manager Doug Krieger said he doubts both potential sellers that have proposed locations in the city will be allowed.
"One of the criteria the state is using is that they're geographically dispersed," Krieger said about the three dispensaries to be licensed in DuPage County. "It's unlikely Naperville would get two of them."
While potential marijuana sellers await news on licenses, some in Naperville are saying additional review should be required for any medical marijuana business location, even those proposed in industrial areas where the zoning code allows them.
Planning and zoning commission member Patricia Meyer asked the city to consider changing its regulations to require additional scrutiny, but Krieger said no new rules are being drafted.
"The original process was very deliberative and thoughtful," Krieger said about discussions the council engaged in last year to set regulations. "We came up with very reasonable zoning requirements that follow the state law."
The push to reconsider may have been sparked by the child-oriented uses on Quincy Avenue near 3C Compassionate Care's potential shop.
Krieger said he's heard concerns from Naperville Yuhllin Church, a Korean congregation at 1743 Quincy Ave., that hosts a Sunday school and art classes. Leaders there say the medical marijuana facility should not be allowed because state law prohibits it from being so close to a school.
"The test will be whether their operation qualifies as a school as the state statute is defined," Krieger said.
Fernandez said she has not heard concerns from neighbors, but she is open to talking with anyone who might be unsure about her business. As a person who suffers from a rare neurological disease called transverse myelitis, which has paralyzed her from the chest down, Fernandez said her aim is to ease the pain of others with similar illnesses.
Chances are there won't be any issues with 3C's potential medical cannabis facility, said Hernandez with Kidz Kabaret, but its presence would spark the need for another drug-prevention discussion with the 1,000 kids who participate in theater activities each year.
"I want to keep these kids safe and I want to keep them drug-free," Hernandez said.