Plan to allow marijuana sales in unincorporated Lake County delayed
A plan to allow -- but regulate -- marijuana sales at licensed dispensaries in unincorporated areas of Lake County was delayed this week.
The necessary zoning rules have been drafted, but the county board's public works, planning and transportation committee narrowly voted against directing the zoning board of appeals to schedule a public review and debate.
After a lengthy discussion Wednesday, committee members instead requested more information about where cannabis dispensaries, growing centers and other related businesses would be allowed to operate under the proposed regulations. They also asked for more information about the possible effects on public health and law enforcement.
The committee likely will discuss the proposal again in January, said Eric Waggoner, the county's planning director.
The committee's debate occurred just weeks before cannabis possession and licensed sales become legal in Illinois.
Starting Jan. 1, anyone 21 or older in Illinois can possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate and 500 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. State-licensed growing, cultivation and sales facilities will be allowed, too.
Individual communities can restrict or ban cannabis-related businesses. County boards can adopt regulations or bans for unincorporated areas.
If the county board doesn't approve the regulations by Jan. 1, Waggoner said, marijuana sales automatically will be forbidden in unincorporated areas until rules are adopted.
The proposed regulations followed a regional task force's research into the impact of legalization efforts in other states. The task force also developed recommendations for local rules.
Under the proposal:
• Pot dispensaries, growing centers and processing centers would be allowed in unincorporated areas zoned for commercial and industrial businesses, but only if the businesses are granted conditional use permits.
• Cannabis transporting businesses would be allowed without permits in industrial areas but would need conditional permits to operate in commercial districts.
• No marijuana-related businesses would be allowed in residential areas.
• Dispensaries would be allowed to operate daily between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
• Dispensaries would have to be at least 1,500 feet from each other.
Additionally, marijuana-related businesses would not be allowed within 250 of a forest preserve or a residential lot. Likewise, they wouldn't be allowed within 500 feet of day care centers, colleges, hospitals, parks or libraries or within 1,000 feet of schools.
Commercial zoning districts exist in every board district, Waggoner said. But only three industrial zones exist in unincorporated Lake County, he said.
The proposed proximity restrictions would limit marijuana-related businesses to "a handful of properties" in the county, Waggoner said.
Wednesday's proposal to move the plan to the zoning board was rejected 5-4.
Committee members Bill Durkin, Jessica Vealitzek, Terry Wilke and John Wasik wanted the zoning board to schedule a hearing. But committee members Linda Pedersen, Diane Hewitt, Jennifer Clark, Ann Maine and Craig Taylor outnumbered them and spiked the plan.
Maine wanted to know exactly where marijuana-related businesses could locate before passing the matter to the zoning board.
"I'd like to see what we're talking about," the Lincolnshire Republican said.
Pedersen, an Antioch Republican, noted that only four or five of the county's 21 board districts would have eligible sites for the businesses, including hers.
Pedersen said she doesn't want pot businesses in her district, adding that enough other board members feel the same way to scuttle the plan.
"I really don't think we have the votes to pass this," Pedersen said.
Wasik, a Grayslake Democrat, said he has a lot of questions about the proposal but expressed faith in the zoning board and its process.