Group wants to grow medical marijuana in Marengo

MARENGO – An undisclosed business group recently approached Marengo officials about growing medical marijuana, making the city the only known area location targeted for a cultivation center.

City administrators now plan to have representatives of the group meet and outline a proposal to City Council members within the month, after aldermen Monday said they wanted to explore the idea of a medical marijuana cultivation center in Marengo.

"I would like to learn more about it," Mayor Don Lockhart said. "I would like to at least have a presentation to the council to see what this really is projected to be."

Marengo officials already have a rough sense of the parameters, but they aren't disclosing the business group involved. The group has pitched a 25,000-square-foot cultivation center built either in city limits or near the city, meaning aldermen could have to annex the land into Marengo.

City Administrator Gary Boden said the individuals who approached him late last week are legitimate based on his own research, adding that the group is looking to become a corporation.

"This is economic development, and the bottom line is I have to be cognizant of their confidentiality" Boden said.

If the group ultimately pursues Marengo, it could position the city as one of the few in the state to land a cultivation center that would supply marijuana to people suffering from various chronic conditions, including HIV, AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

A new state law allows for only 22 cultivation centers – one per Illinois State Police district – to grow marijuana and provide products to the 60 licensed dispensaries also scattered throughout the state.

Marengo could be facing unknown competition from areas within its police district, which covers DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.

State officials announced this week that the formal application window for dispensaries and cultivators will likely last from Sept. 8 to Sept. 22.

Cultivation applicants will be weighted based on their cultivation and security plans.

Applicants also would have to show whether their site meets a city's zoning regulations, if they have applied for local zoning approval, or detail if a city doesn't have the appropriate zoning in place at their proposed site.

Addressing aldermen Monday, Boden said the council would likely have to approve a special-use permit within their zoning codes before the business group can proceed with their state application.

Other zoning requirements in the state law prohibit any cultivation center from being located within 2,500 feet of any school, daycare facility and residential areas.

A center also cannot be located within 1,000 feet of another cultivation facility or dispensary.