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State trumps city on rules for pot sites

Proposed rules by state would allow up 13 dispensaries Chicago. (AP Photo/file) ORG XMIT: CST1402131832565783

Proposed rules by the state would allow up to 13 dispensaries in Chicago. (AP Photo/file) ORG XMIT: CST1402131832565783

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Updated: March 16, 2014 6:06AM

Marijuana sellers should be able to open a medical dispensary in the center of Chicago, state officials said in recently unveiled documents.

Proposed rules by the state would allow up to 13 dispensaries to open all around the city to be sure patients throughout could easily fill their marijuana prescriptions.

The preliminary rules from the state could effectively put an end on the city’s plan to confine the dispensaries to manufacturing districts within the city.

The proposed rules smack of “arrogance,” said Ald. Edward Burke (14th), who bemoaned the lack of say city officials had on the issue.

“I think the people of Chicago have the right to input on where these dispensaries will be located, just as they have the right to input where other business uses would be located,” he said. “Moreover, I believe the rule makers ... are misreading the legislation because the maps that were prepared by the Chicago department of planning seem to indicate that the existing state law dramatically limited the areas in which these dispensaries would be sited.”

The state requires a dispensary to be 1,000 feet away from a school or day care center — and in a non-residential area.

The state used township boundaries to dictate the number of dispensaries that should be allowed in a particular area of the city.

For instance in North Township, which is roughly bounded by Fullerton to the north and follows the edge of the Chicago River to the west and south, has been allocated one dispensary, state records show.

Suburban Cook County has been allocated 11 dispensaries. In all, there will be 60 dispensaries allowed to open around the state.

Peter Strazzabosco, deputy commissioner for the city’s Department of Planning and Development, said the proposed rules are under review.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which issued the proposed rules, is accepting public comments before submitting the rules for official review.

“These are draft rules and we look forward to getting input from everyone who has an interest in them,” department spokeswoman Susan Hofer said.

Burke, with the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, has championed an ordinance that would limit marijuana grow facilities and dispensaries to manufacturing districts. It also would require the business owners to obtain special-use permits that would trigger a public hearing before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals where area residents could object, identify the owners and scrutinize their backgrounds.

Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, said the new state regulations “make finding sites for these place more difficult.”

But he also said, “The city has to comply with the law. I assume we’ll find a way to be in compliance,” possibly by “establishing a community process to allow or not allow these facilities.”

City officials said clarification is needed on how to implement the rule requiring dispensaries to be located throughout the city while also abiding by the limits on where they can be located.

Ald. Danny Solis (25th), chairman of the City Council’s Zoning Committee, said he has to understand the details of the new rules before proceeding.

But he acknowledged marijuana dispensaries need to be accessible to seriously-ill patients who need them.

“I had experience with my mom’s passing where, frankly, that would have been something we would have wanted for her if it would have helped with her pain in the last days of her life,” Solis said.

That sentiment is akin to what officials should be considering when looking at the issue, said Chris Lindsey, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project.

“The focus has to be on the people this bill was designed for and that’s the seriously ill patient,” he said.

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