Could a Medical Marijuana Dispensary Open in Lake Forest or Lake Bluff?
Originally Written for Gazebo News Reader Forum on October 31, 2012
By Andy Duran, Executive Director
The Illinois state legislature has been very active in creating a medical marijuana statute, currently short titled and cited as the “Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act” under House Bill 0030 (HB 30) and Senate Bill 1548. The pending statute has undergone many revisions, but appears closer to passing both the Illinois House and Senate.
Legislators in Springfield came extremely close to passing a medical marijuana bill a year ago. The statute narrowly failed to pass by only 3 votes. While we don’t know for sure when the next vote will occur, the statute could very likely be brought to a vote when legislators return to Springfield for the two-week veto session on November 27th. In other words, Illinois is close to becoming the 18th state with an effective medical marijuana law.
As proposed, the Illinois statute will allow each senate district to have one “Registered Non-Profit Medical Cannabis Organization” (i.e. dispensary) and one “cultivation area.” This is concerning due to the fact that Lake Forest now resides within two senate districts (districts 29 and 30). So if this legislation passes as is, there could be two dispensaries and two cultivation areas in Lake Forest alone.
Additionally, the statute “prohibits any municipality from enacting an ordinance” that would conflict with this new act. Specifically, “no unit of local government, including a home-rule unit, or school district, may regulate registered non-profit medical cannabis organizations.” Many municipalities where medical marijuana has already been legalized are fighting a tough battle to get them removed. Illinois’ statute prohibits such action. If this bill is passed into Illinois state law, and if a dispensary opens in our community before a local ordinance is passed, it will be very difficult to get it removed.
Why is this a problem?
Research from other states and municipalities where medical marijuana has already been legalized report the following:
1. A great increase in public safety issues
States that have fully implemented medical marijuana programs are now experiencing “buyer’s remorse.” They have seen firsthand that dispensaries lead to increased crime and adversely affect the quality of life in their communities. According to an Oct. 2011 article in the Daily Tribune in Oakland County, Michigan, burglaries and armed robberies were reported throughout Michigan at dispensaries in Lansing, Ann Arbor and Battle Creek in 2011. As a result of these increases in crime and other public-safety issues, localities that were once strongly in favor of medical marijuana, such as Los Angeles, have voted to shut down all medical marijuana dispensaries.
2. Decrease in property values
Communities with medical marijuana dispensaries, and especially those with cultivation areas, will entice thieves and criminals, adversely affecting property values and the safety of neighborhoods in general.
3. A great increase in youth access and use of marijuana
Legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana leads to both lower perceptions of harm and increased usage among youth. Based on available figures, advocacy of medical marijuana in states where legislation has been passed has had a dramatic effect on increasing usage among youth. There is a direct correlation between medical marijuana initiatives and a decrease in perception of harm and social disapproval. The 2011 Monitoring the Future Survey reports that 22.7% of U.S. high school seniors thought that there was a great risk of harm from smoking marijuana occasionally, down from 26.6% in 2003 (Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E., University of Michigan, 2011 Monitoring the Future Study). States that have medical marijuana programs have among the lowest perceptions of harm among youth in the nation (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, State Estimates from the 2008- 2009 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health). Efforts to pass medical marijuana initiatives further normalize marijuana use among youth and thereby lessen the perceptions of its dangers and negative effects, which will result in an increase in youth marijuana use.
Medical marijuana and marijuana legalization efforts send the wrong messages to youth—namely, that marijuana is not only safe but that it is a medicine. Legislation and legislative efforts of this kind threaten public health and significantly undermine prevention efforts of community anti-drug coalitions throughout the country.
What can our local government do about it?
There are three specific actions that city council can take to prohibit a “registered non-profit medical cannabis organization” from opening its doors in Lake Forest or Lake Bluff.
- Exercise a citizen ballot initiative – used both to include or exclude
- Establish a zoning ordinance stating that use is illegal as it conflicts with local ordinances, state statutes, and other drug laws.
- Draft a specific moratorium on allowing use in any zoned area until further research can be done.
Glenn Burmeister, recently retired Lake Forest Deputy Chief of Police, worked on drafting a local ordinance, using number 2 above. This draft ordinance has since been passed on to City of Lake Forest government officials for review.
Earlier this month, I spoke at both the Lake Forest City Council and the Lake Bluff Village Board meetings regarding the pending state legislation and the effect it could have on the Lake Forest and Lake Bluff communities. It is our hope that the City of Lake Forest and the Village of Lake Bluff will quickly move to establish an ordinance preventing the establishment of a registered non-profit medical cannabis organization before it becomes legalized at the state level.
What can you do about it?
In addition to the efforts of LEAD, the Speak UP! Prevention Coalition, and our local government officials, success with this initiative will require a rapid response from concerned local citizens. Local citizens are urged to:
- Contact State Senators and State Representatives, and urge them to vote against House Bill 0030 and Senate Bill 1548. Remember that elections take place on November 6th and the medical marijuana statute could be brought to a vote as early as November 27th.
- Urge Lake Forest City Council members and Lake Bluff Village Trustees to pass an ordinance prohibiting dispensaries prior to the legislation passing at the state level.
- Raise awareness in our community about the pending legislation and what community members can do about it.
For the reasons outline above, LEAD and SpeakUP! strongly oppose any efforts to pass medical marijuana initiatives or marijuana legalization, and strongly advise that our local government officials take the appropriate actions to keep our community safe.
For more information about these efforts, or to get involved, please visitwww.leadingefforts.org/medicalmarijuana.