License granted to St. Charles dispensary, but city approval still needed for recreational pot sales
A medical marijuana facility in St. Charles has been awarded a state license to sell recreational cannabis under the same roof.
But one key hurdle remains: Securing approval from the city.
Zen Leaf St. Charles was one of four medical dispensaries granted a "same-site" license this week from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, bringing the state total to 34.
With that authorization, adult-use cannabis sales will be permitted at Zen Leaf's current location, 3714 Illinois Ave., when a new state law takes effect next month -- as long as the use complies with local regulations. That's where the business hits a roadblock, said Chris Fotopoulos, general counsel for Zen Leaf.
"Just because (the state) gave us approval doesn't mean we can sell recreationally there come Jan. 1. ... We also need approval from the city in order to do so," he said. "They definitely go hand-in-hand."
The city council updated its zoning code in October to allow one recreational marijuana shop on either side of the Fox River. According to the special use provisions, both dispensaries must be linked to state-licensed medical cannabis facilities, one of which is required to have operated at least a year in St. Charles.
Zen Leaf is the only business that qualifies. But its existing shop is in the limited manufacturing zoning district, not the community business and regional business districts where adult-use cannabis sales are permitted.
The state license is site-specific, prohibiting the dispensary from relocating, Fotopoulos said.
Zen Leaf operators have been petitioning the city to extend the special use into their zoning district and, in turn, allow recreational sales at their shop.
The plan commission is expected to consider the proposals at 7 p.m. Tuesday -- its third meeting on the topic. The advisory panel's recommendations would then be brought to the planning and development committee before a final vote by city council.
Zen Leaf is willing to work with city leaders and neighbors to adjust its plans and "make everybody feel more comfortable," Fotopoulos said, noting it appears unlikely a decision will be made by Jan. 1. Dispensary operators have completed a traffic study and submitted additional information requested by the city to help move the process along.
"We're just hoping for a quick resolution," Fotopoulos said. "We believe in St. Charles, and we understand they're going through their due diligence process. They're just trying to make an informed decision. ...
"We want to be good stewards of the community," he continued. "I can't stress that enough."
A Zen Leaf dispensary in Chicago also was included in the state's latest round of recreational cannabis business licensees, along with Seven Point in Oak Park and Midway Dispensary in Chicago, according to a news release Wednesday from the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
More early-approval license applications are expected to be submitted as municipalities adopt relevant ordinances, state officials said. The state plans to issue an additional 75 licenses for adult-use marijuana sales to new applicants in the coming months.