By Tom Holmes
Now that medical marijuana is legal in Illinois, will pot be coming to Forest Park? Will our children have even easier access to the drug? Will a purple haze descend on our village and give everyone the munchies?
None of the elected officials in town chose to comment, but Sally Cody, who as Mayor Calderone's executive secretary and the village's deputy clerk has her finger on the pulse of Forest Park as well as anyone, had this to say about residents' fears:
"I'm of the personal opinion that the general public believes these dispensaries can/will be opening on every corner. I think it would be good for someone to be rational and educational on the subject," she said.
"Based upon my limited knowledge, we have very little chance of ever having this type of operation open here given the restrictions set forth by the State. Oak Park has a better chance, but I doubt they will ever see it come to fruition either," Cody added.
Commercial realtor David King has made it his business to keep up with the new legislation and has compiled a ten page archive of articles on the issue including the legislation itself, which he shared with the Review. The legislation, known as The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program and which started in January, places severe restrictions on where Marijuana can be grown and sold.
The legislation states, "A dispensing organization may not be located within 1,000 feet of the property line of a pre-existing public or private preschool or elementary or secondary school or daycare center, day care home, group day care home, or part day child care facility. A registered dispensing organization may not be located in a house, apartment, condominium or area zoned for residential use."
It goes on to say, "A dispensing organization is prohibited from acquiring cannabis from anyone other than a registered cultivation center. A dispensing organization is prohibited from obtaining cannabis from outside the State of Illinois and can only be sold to registered users."
King pointed out that the State has allocated only 22 licenses for the cultivation of cannabis and 60 licenses for dispensaries to sell it. In fact, Leyden, Norwood Park and Proviso townships together have only been allocated one dispensary. King did the math. "With 26 villages located in these three townships," he said, "the chance of getting a dispensary in Forest Park is one-in-26."
In addition to the restrictions imposed by the law, individual villages can pass zoning ordinances further limiting the locations where pot can be sold. An article in the March 19 edition of the Wednesday Journal concluded, "Practically the entire village of Oak Park would be off limits when it comes to distributing recently legalized medical marijuana under a proposed ordinance going before the board of trustees next week."
The only place a dispensary could legally go would be within a block of Rush-Oak Park Hospital on Harlem Avenue.
Crain's Chicago Business reported that in addition to all of the legal limitations imposed by the law. "The entrepreneurs who aim to profit from the law face another big challenge: finding places to grow and sell it."
The explanation, according to the article, is that property owners are afraid that tenants and neighbors might be upset if they rented space to a cannabis dispensary even though it would be in a non-restricted area. A good example of how nervous merchants are about having anything to do with medical marijuana is a call the Review made to the CVS on Circle Ave. When the reporter called the pharmacy asking if it would be selling medical marijuana, the person cut the reporter off mid-sentence saying, "We don't have any of that" and slammed the phone down.
From all of the evidence, the likelihood of a cannabis dispensary locating in Forest Park is almost as slim as correctly filling out all the brackets for the NCAA basketball tournament.