Group ditches Marengo medical marijuana center

MARENGO – Facing a time crunch with the state, a business group’s idea to cultivate medical marijuana in Marengo has gone up in smoke.

After approaching the city last month about building a cultivation center, the undisclosed business group ultimately decided it didn't have time to complete the rigorous state application and secure land for a proposed center, said City Administrator Gary Boden.

“The people who were advancing this were under a specific deadline,” Boden said. “They didn’t think they could complete what they needed to get done and complete the state application process.”

Starting Monday, businesses can start applying for both cultivation and dispensary licenses as part of a new statewide pilot program that legalizes marijuana use for the terminally ill and others with certain debilitating conditions. The two-week application window closes Sept. 22.

The business group that approached Boden in early August seemingly pitched the idea of a cultivation center too late.

Prospective marijuana growers applying for a license with the state agriculture department need to detail their cultivation and security plans. They also need to outline whether their proposal meets a city’s zoning regulations or if they are in process of gaining zoning approval.

The new state law allows for only 22 cultivation centers – one for every Illinois State Police district – to grow marijuana and provide products to the 60 dispensaries located throughout Illinois.

Boden said the group also tried to secure land within Marengo, but the owner was only interested in selling hundreds of acres, instead of the 20 acres the group wanted for its center.

City Council members were open to making Marengo a destination for cultivators, said Mayor Don Lockhart. But the business group ultimately was responsible for making the unique economic development opportunity a reality.

“As far as losing an enterprise, they were responsible for getting certain things done, and they didn’t do it in time,” Lockhart said. “We certainly could have handled a center very well.”