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Marijuana cultivation center in Kendall County? : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Marijuana cultivation center in Kendall County?
County receives inquiry; board members want more information

by Matt Schury


Kendall County Board members said last week they would like more information on medical marijuana cultivation centers.

Board members commented after county's senior planner, Angela Zubko, reported she recently received an inquiry about siting a center in far southern Lisbon Township on property along Whitewillow Road currently owned by Waste Management.

Zubko said she didn't know who the caller was but said they sounded serious about bringing a facility to Kendall County and wanted to know what the zoning process was for siting a cultivation center.

Zubko told the board two weeks ago during their committee of the whole meeting that the county doesn't really have any zoning restrictions written regarding a center since the issue is new to Illinois.

A state law legalizing medical marijuana went into effect just this year. Many of the rules and regulations surrounding cultivation and selling marijuana are still being hammered out in Springfield, she noted.

Zubko suggested the board start drawing up a text amendment to include the centers in their zoning policy. She told them they could make the cultivation centers a special use or part of existing zoning.

She said that the size of the center is up to the applicant but the marijuana has to be grown, harvested, packaged and prepared within an enclosed building.

"It has to be in an enclosed building. You can't just have it as a crop like corn outside," she said "The gentleman that I have been talking to has been talking about building a greenhouse or multiple greenhouses and the one in Plano would be in a warehouse."

The issue was put on the county board's Planning Building Zoning Committee agenda for further discussion. Board members said they wanted Zubko to present information on both a cultivation center and medical marijuana dispensary.

Zubko explained the state law indicates that only 22 cultivation centers will be permitted in the state of Illinois or one per State Police District. Kendall is in a police district with Will and Grundy Counties.

Additionally, all marijuana must be grown, harvested, prepared and packaged in an enclosed locked facility for distribution to a registered dispensary.

Cultivation centers will have to submit plans to the Department of Agriculture.

Regarding dispensaries only one will be permitted between Kendall and Grundy Counties.

The law also indicated that the centers need a tight security plan reviewed by State Police. They will also be required to have cannabis-tracking systems and perform weekly inventories.

Centers will also have to comply with local zoning laws and must be located at least 2,500 feet away from homes, schools, day care facilities and areas zoned for residential use.

She also noted that local governments may not regulate registered medical cannabis organizations beyond what's in the law or "unreasonably prohibit the cultivation, dispensing and use of medical cannabis."

Zubko noted that there are more regulations being proposed in Springfield that would include when, where and how the cultivation center could operate or how and when they can sell their product.

'No way in heck'

The board members seemed reluctant to do anything until they receive more information.

Matt Prochaska noted that local governments couldn't unreasonably prohibit the growing of marijuana, according to the law. He said he wanted to know what "unreasonable prohibition" meant and if they could decide to restrict it by zoning.

David Berault, assistant state's attorney, said that since the issue is so new he didn't have an answer.

"I think it's a little early for us to say what would be unreasonable restraint. They're still doing the rules, everything is still trying to be figured out, so we don't have a (girth) of case law on this yet" he said.

He advised the board to figure out what they want to do to restrict the growing and see if that meets the law.

"If you were zoning in a manner that made it so that it was impossible for a cultivation center to be within the county lines, that wouldn't pass muster," Berault said.

Prochaska continued to question Berault.

"I'm just trying to wrap my head around this. So, if we-as you said-created an unreasonable zoning restriction the state of Illinois could, in theory, sue the County of Kendall for ... not having a friendly code to grow a schedule one illegal federal narcotic?" he said.

Berault said the federal government is looking at the states in a rather lenient manner when it comes to this issue but Prochaska had his doubts.

"Just this month the federal government has started prosecuting people in the state of Washington for growing medial marijuana," Prochaska said. "So what leniency is there?"

"What the state is hoping is that the federal government is not going to enforce to heavily," Berault said. "Do we have the ability as a county to tell the state that, no we do not want a cultivation center within our county? No," Berault said.

Prochaska concluded that he could not support such a facility under those circumstances.

"No way in heck am I voting for anything that allows a schedule one narcotic to be grown anywhere, regardless of what the state law says," Prochaska said.

"It's used for medicinal purposes," Board member Amy Cesich told him.

"It's still illegal," Prochaska responded.

Cesich noted that there is a $25,000 application fee and a $200,000 fee if the application is awarded with an annual renewal fee of $100,000.

Additionally, Zubko noted that the person or company siting the cultivation center would need $500,000 in liquid assets before even being considered for an application. The law also requires background checks and the company or person running the center has to be transparent about who is involved.

Board Chairman John Shaw asked if there were any cultivation or growing fees the county could charge similar to tipping fees the county negotiated with landfill companies in the past.

"This is an unusual request. I don't remember anything like this coming forward in all my many years," Shaw said.

Board member Elizabeth Flowers said the center would have to work like anything else requesting zoning changes or a special use permit. Ultimately the state of Illinois is in charge or reviewing and granting or denying an application for a medical marijuana center.

"We would have to decide, do we want this in Kendall County and then kind of go forward and make it easier or less easy," Flowers said.

Board member Scott Gryder suggested that the county needed to "filter out" the issue some more in committee and talk about it next month again.

Board member John Purcell agreed with Gryder, noting the play on words.

"I think the key word is 'filter' we want to 'filter' this out," Purcell said.

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