Village to set limits on 'pot shops'

Plan Commission to recommend limiting dispensaries to hospital district

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Practically the entire village of Oak Park would be off limits when it comes to distributing recently legalized medical marijuana under a proposed ordinance going before the board of trustees next week.

The Rush Oak Park Hospital District near Madison Street and Harlem Avenue and a couple of blocks of commercial space across the street are the only two areas in the village where a dispensary would be allowed, under zoning changes recommended by the citizen-led Oak Park Plan Commission.

State law already prohibits dispensaries from opening in residential areas or within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare facility, which prevents the shops from operating throughout the vast majority of the village. Growing facilities for medical marijuana require a 2,500-foot buffer zone between the same areas and schools, putting them off-limits in Oak Park.

Without the proposed zoning change, more than two dozen city blocks, running along the perimeter of the village on North Avenue, Harlem Avenue, Roosevelt Road and Austin Boulevard, would be fair game for the dispensaries.

The proposed ordinance, recommended to the plan commission by Village Planner Craig Failor, would also prohibit the dispensaries in a few scattered blocks throughout the village zoned as non-residential business districts.

The boundaries for where dispensaries can be located will change over time, as schools, daycare centers and residential areas shift around within the village, Failor said in a telephone interview. State law prevents the village from blocking dispensaries entirely.

The proposed limitation that prevents locating dispensaries along the perimeter of the village puts the cannabis shops in the same category as pawn shops, second-hand shops, laundromats, currency exchanges, loan companies and employment agencies.

Plan Commission Chair Linda Bolte said in a telephone interview that the businesses "are not the kind of uses that we want to encourage."

"We're looking for more of a consistent commercial feel on the perimeters," she said. "I think it kept coming back to us that the hospital district appeared to be well-suited to house this sort of dispensary."

She said the commission was particularly concerned about security for such a dispensary "because of the nature of the drug that would be accommodated."

"You'd have to have a secure place … just like in a drugstore," she said.

Failor said city planners recommended limiting the dispensaries to the hospital because patients will need a prescription to the get drug.

"It's not so much keeping them out [of the rest of the village] as it is directing them to a more appropriate location," he said.

Medical Dispensary Map


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Posted: March 19th, 2014 3:56 PM

@Poliaurea from River Forest -- Where are all the gun stores in Oak Park?

Eric Holder, Attorney at Law  

Posted: March 19th, 2014 3:31 PM

The State of Illinois is really going to force municipalities to allow marijuana dispensiaries? Illinois is honestly going to make a town or village to disregard Federal law? Good luck with that!

Dennis from Oak Park  

Posted: March 19th, 2014 3:25 PM

"Plan Commission Chair Linda Bolte said in a telephone interview that the businesses 'are not the kind of uses that we want to encourage.'" NOTICE TO ALL ENTERPRISING OWNERS--this statement will be Exhibit 1 in the suit which follows the denial of a permit. Someone please train these people so we don't end up on the hook for civil suits which will certainly follow.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: March 19th, 2014 3:07 PM

Will there be pot dispensaries in the Austin area? If not why not just open something near the Madison McDonalds. Whatever you do make sure the pot traffic stays south of Lake.


Posted: March 19th, 2014 1:49 PM

Shocking! someone's business plan could go up in smoke! How about this wig shop, payday loan, meth dispensory, video gambling and pot store on same block! One stop shop!

Space Cowboy  

Posted: March 19th, 2014 1:47 PM

I've been in OP for a couple years now, why is Madison Street so run down? It seems like the main thoroughfare for the area, I would think lots of business would want that space and the village would REALLY want to make it nice. Look what Forest Park has done, I spend a lot of money at bars, restaurants and shops on Forest Park. Why isn't Madison like that in OP, it is shameful that such an opportunity is being squandered. Long time OP peeps, enlighten me.

Space Cowboy  

Posted: March 19th, 2014 1:44 PM

Legal is legal, once again Oak Park harrasses a business interest out of existence into Forest Park. Let's get rid of the abandoned store fronts of excessive wig shop options and put it on Madison. The fireplace shop just west of OP ave has been vacant for ages, it is right by Walgreens, Pizza and Ribs, local business has an influx of related dollars. OP needs an economic boom, legalize pot. Never liked it myself but it sure beats liquor in terms of problems caused.

Cherry Garcia from Shakedown Street USA  

Posted: March 19th, 2014 10:59 AM



Posted: March 19th, 2014 9:47 AM

It's bananas that the village still doesn't have any kind of zoning law for gun stores.

Jeff from Oak Park  

Posted: March 19th, 2014 9:37 AM

Sorry, I am laughing to hard to write a good comment on this one. Gotta love Oak Park.

Pot NIMBY's from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 9:57 PM

There seem to be a couple of vacancies on Lake Street. This should be accessible to everyone who's qualified under the law, right? Ready access to public transportation is key to make it fair for everyone. You've forced plenty of other developments onto neighbors who didn't want it in their back yard. Obey the law, NIMBY's. This is legal and respectable, not something that should be dumped on Madison Ave.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 9:11 PM

seems like less of a village issue and more of an issue of the village trying to make something work within an already strict state law. the only other place that will fit is on the border with north ave. Being that this is a 'medical' marijuana issue, it makes more sense to put the dispensary would be located in the hospital district should one decide to open.

Eric Reeb from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 7:29 PM

Do dispensaries cause problems in the states that already have them?

Dan in Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 6:44 PM

This is high RPM spin using tortured logic. It is painfully obvious that except for the state law, Failor and the Plan Commission would stop pot shops. I agree that many do have a valid medical need, but this is really about decriminalizing pot for everyone else. Forget the consistent commercial feel of the village argument, the real question is will the free spirit Woodstock generation citizens from the sixties support this approach or demand that you light up and leave me alone?

Another View  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 5:39 PM

The concern is probably more about abuse. In some places, unscrupulous doctors have been free with marijuana prescriptions for "patients" reporting vague symptoms. Dispensaries have become places where abusers go to buy. This, obviously, isn't desirable. I can't imagine anyone is trying to restrict access to cancer patients, but abuse is inevitable, so the location of dispensaries has to be carefully considered.

Sarah M from Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 5:26 PM

It's very hypocritical for a village that prides itself on its compassion, to practically ban any medical marijuana dispensaries from nearly all its commercial areas. The folks who need its relief from the effects of chemo needs easy access to a dispensary. How cruel can the village -- and some of the posters here be? Dispensaries are heavily regulated and prescriptions limited. Have a little decency Oak Park trustees and rethink these unwarranted limitations.

Doug Kittredge from Oak Park   

Posted: March 18th, 2014 5:21 PM

Why wouldn't the regulations for this be the same as other medicines - only available through pharmacies?

Jay Aponto  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 4:44 PM

I have had several friends die from cancer. Only two choose to use marijuana for comfort and let me tell you, from my point of view, I wish they all would have. They seemed to have had a much more pleasant last couple of months. I do not have any experience with it used in any other manner, i.e. Glaucoma, so I can't speak for that, but wish it was easier for anyone in such pain to get the relief they did. Even if only for the last couple of months of their life.

Resident A from Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 4:22 PM

Could we get a pointer to a better version of the map? The text in the legend is just fuzz next to colors. Thanks.


Posted: March 18th, 2014 3:56 PM

Just what we need. A local dispensary. Be careful what you ask for.

Poliaurea from River Forest  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 3:46 PM

Why don't they have the same limits for guns?

Violet Aura from FakeLiberal Town, USA  

Posted: March 18th, 2014 3:24 PM

What about Reefer Forest?!

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