DeKalb approves medical cannabis dispensary rezoning

DeKALB – The establishment of a medical cannabis dispensary in DeKalb received city approval during Monday’s council meeting, leaving it up to state regulators to approve the licensing that would allow such a facility to open.

The City Council unanimously approved a rezoning request by Chicago-based Justice Grown, which was previously named Effingham Medicinal Farms LLC, to allow a dispensary to operate in a multitenant building at 650 Peace Road.

However, the dispensary cannot open unless it receives a medical cannabis dispensary license from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which administers the state’s medical marijuana pilot program.

Although the program was approved in 2013, no dispensaries opened until November 2015. Under state law, the pilot program is to expire in 2020.

Justice Grown Vice President of Business Development Jamil Taylor said the next step is to work with lobbyists and pressure Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration to allow the licensing.

“This hurts patients who are driving hours to get their medicine,” Taylor said.

Medical marijuana is approved to treat a variety of illnesses, including Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and cancer.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing in February, where seven people, including existing tenants of the building and a registered medical cannabis patient, spoke in favor of the rezoning request.

Under the Unified Development Ordinance, planned developments are required to be on sites two acres or larger and cannabis dispendaries are not permitted in multitenant properties.

The commission voted, 7-0, to recommend the rezoning and make exemptions to the Unified Development Ordinance for the proposed dispensary.

A special-use permit was granted for a dispensary at 1985 Gateway Drive in Sycamore in 2015, but that permit may expire in April.

Only one dispensary is allowed in each of 60 dispensary districts in Illinois, so there couldn’t be dispensaries in both Sycamore and DeKalb.

Taylor said it would be more beneficial for the dispensary to be in DeKalb because it has a greater urban population and there is potential to partner with Northern Illinois University for outreach.