There is a lot of sound and fury over the mere possibility that Forest Park could be chosen as the location for this region’s single state licensed medical marijuana dispensary.
Monday night it was the Forest Park Zoning Board of Appeals that got an earful from potential neighbors of the two remaining sites up for consideration as dispensary locations. Over the course of three hours, residents and applicants made their views plain.
The two remaining applicants — Evan Hilton and Linda Sibula — told personal stories of how family members with serious illnesses might have benefited from more accessible and legal use of marijuana for palliative pain relief. But opponents aren’t arguing against the medicinal properties of marijuana to ease chronic pain. They are not even arguing against the new state law that allows a select number of dispensaries to be set up as for-profit businesses.
No, opponents are making the classic argument that they don’t want what they perceive to be a potentially challenging business operating in direct proximity to their homes. They want to protect their property values and their peace of mind.
Experience tells us that such fears — brazen robbers stealing either the pot or the cash needed to buy the pot and then hopping the Green Line, or weed-buzzed derelicts congregating near a dispensary for just a taste — are significantly overblown. That’s why we have zoning boards and village councils and not straw votes by neighbors to decide such contentious issues.
Monday night an undermanned zoning board — with a serial abstaining vote to boot — pushed forward an application to turn the long-shuttered Washington Mutual Bank storefront on Roosevelt Road into a dispensary. There was a split vote on the proposed Kevil’s Restaurant site on Circle Avenue where neighbors turned out in force to object. Happily, to us, the applicant proposing that the dispensary be placed in the prime retail site of the old Deal$ store on Roosevelt withdrew their application.
Now the village council will need to decide whether to accept the recommendations of the zoning board and support the single applicant or to give official village sanction to both applicants. Generally the council has been supportive of, even enthused over, the possibility of winning a pot dispensary for Forest Park. We’re not sure we quite get the giddiness over the possibility, but this is a legal use and so be it.
While not exactly a decisive action, we think the zoning board got the recommendations about right Monday night. The small, unassuming former bank storefront on Roosevelt would be convenient for patients seeking the product. It would keep this commercial traffic out of more residential neighborhoods such as the proposed Circle Avenue location — though we think neighbors there are significantly overstating the dangers.
It is always good to see Forest Parkers come out to express their opinions in public forums. Doesn’t happen enough. So thanks to the zoning board and now it is on to the village council.