Forest Park may or may not ever wind up with a medical marijuana dispensary. Ultimately some state agency will decide where in our region the single dispensary will be located. 

But within Forest Park just the possibility of selling pot for legitimate medical treatment has created quite a buzz. There are three applicants set to appear Thursday in front of the local Zoning Board of Appeals. Receiving a nod there would potentially lead to an affirmative “green light letter” from the village council. And that letter would be carried by a recipient(s) to the state process on choosing that one golden location for a dispensary in our area.

On the village council itself there seems to be surprisingly enthused support for the concept with multiple members including Mayor Anthony Calderone offering some level of backing for what they are rightly pointing out is now a legal use. “Why not us?” seems to be the question these backers are asking.

Not everyone is supportive. David King, a leading local commercial leasing agent and typically a backer of Calderone, was pleased in July when the village council slowed the approval process down by imposing a four-month moratorium on the subject until zoning issues could be resolved.

And that’s the work the zoning board will take up this week. Our position is in the middle on this interesting issue. We’re grateful that marijuana is now legal for palliative care of seriously ill patients. It can offer serious pain relief for people who need it. We’re supportive of the state’s efforts to license and control the number and the operations of the dispensaries. And we agree with council members who note that this is now legal and Forest Park could potentially benefit by attracting this legal use.

That said, not all proposed locations are equal and this is the opportunity that the zoning board has to craft a very specific ordinance setting out narrow potential locations within the village. One proposal would use a site on Circle Avenue that is currently used as an off-the –beaten track restaurant. That works for us. This dispensary will be a destination and people in need will find it. There is not a need for a prime commercial location because drive-by traffic cannot boost the business. 

And that is why, if Forest Park is serious about finally boosting Roosevelt Road, that the proposal to use the ex-Deal$ location near Desplaines Avenue is a terrible idea. This is a prime retail location, with parking no less. 

The third proposed location is unknown as of press time.

Here’s another concern though it is of less immediate interest to Forest Park than to the potential business owner. Eventually marijuana is going to be legalized and regulated for recreational use in Illinois. Colorado and Washington State are right now leading the way in figuring out the pros and the cons. 

Given the reality of how petty pot crimes tie up police, court and jail systems, given the disturbing imbalance in enforcement actions that put young black men in jail, this system has to be taken apart. And it will come.

 

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...