Oak Park green lights cannabis

Dispensaries allowed as a permitted use in the village

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Recreational cannabis dispensary owners, who will begin opening shops across the state next year, will have few hurdles from the Village of Oak Park, following a recent decision from the Oak Park village board.

The board, in a split vote at its Sept. 16 meeting, rejected a recommendation by the Plan Commission to make the dispensaries a so-called special use in the zoning code, which would have required dispensary owners to present their plans to the public and get approval from the board of trustees.

Trustees voted 4-3 to make the business type a permitted use, which requires no specific approval by the board or public hearing. The yes votes were cast by Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb and trustees Deno Andrews, Dan Moroney and Arti Walker-Peddakotla, while the dissenting votes came from Susan Buchanan, Simone Boutet and Jim Taglia.

The issue was first presented to the Oak Park Plan Commission, which unanimously rejected a recommendation from village staff to make the dispensaries a permitted use.

If the board had made the dispensaries a special use, owners would have had to present their business plan to either the Plan Commission or Zoning Board of Appeals – the two bodies would have shared the responsibility – and given the public the opportunity to support or oppose the specific proposal. 

Dispensary owners then would have had to present the proposal to the full Board of Trustees as well, similar to the way restaurateurs must gain approval from the Liquor Control Review Board and full Board of Trustees before obtaining a liquor license.

 Municipalities are prevented by state law from establishing such a review board, so the zoning use change would have established a de facto review board for cannabis establishments.

Laura Brown, an Oak Park parent of three teenagers, urged trustees to study the topic of cannabis legalization more thoroughly before deciding, noting that use of the drug can cause depression, anxiety, psychosis and suicidal ideation in teens.

"Think about the impact and effect this is going to have on our children and our community," she said. 

Kelly O'Connor, prevention services manager for Oak Park Township who testified as a resident, said Oak Park already is a permissive community when it comes to underage alcohol and drug use. She noted that 20 percent of 8th-12th graders in Oak Park have used cannabis in the last 30 days.

"When we normalize an addictive substance, we do a disservice to our community," she said.   

Oak Parker Brian Bobek testified in favor of permitted use because his company Providence Dispensaries will be submitting an application for a dispensary in town. He said opening a dispensary is a "high-risk endeavor that requires a fantastic amount of work."

He said that the medical dispensary already in town – Seven Point at 1132 Lake St. – which will transition to a recreational shop, limits the amount of space available to open other dispensaries in town. The state law approved by Gov. J.B. Pritzker requires 1,500 feet — a little over a quarter of a mile — between dispensaries. 

"We are not a multi-state operation flush with cash and resources," Bobek said, arguing that more regulation would make it harder for mom-and-pop dispensaries to get in the business.

Trustee Simone Boutet attempted to delay the vote, arguing that the board and village should study the issue closer before deciding on the zoning change. "I think this is something we should look at in the context of the entire topic," she said. "We should have a more robust exploration of it."

Her attempt to table the issue, though, was defeated in a 5-2 vote, with Trustee Buchanan as the other yes vote.

Trustee Walker-Peddakotla said she believes that legalization of recreational cannabis use is a good thing, adding that those who have been negatively impacted by the criminalization of cannabis should be first in line to get a dispensary license. 

Trustee Andrews said it should not be up to the board to decide who is allowed to open a dispensary in the village. He said a lot of racial and socioeconomic bias comes along with residents opposing or supporting the opening of such establishments. 

"I've heard people say, 'We don't want a brewery at Lake and Austin because it will promote drinking in Austin,'" he said. 

He argued that the village should set standards on things like advertising and preventing dispensaries from targeting vulnerable populations, adding, "Once we set those standards, I don't think we should have a public hearing every time someone wants to open a dispensary." 

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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Reader Comments

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Comment Policy

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: September 19th, 2019 5:58 PM

Don't invest in marijuana stocks. Invest in fast food and snack foods stocks.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: September 19th, 2019 12:46 PM

Every drug has side effects. Not saying pro or con here, but if someone tells you a certain drug has no side effects, they're either ignorant or lying.

Jim Frenkel  

Posted: September 19th, 2019 12:25 PM

Dave's not here, man...

Ryan Burr Honeycutt IV from Long Beach  

Posted: September 19th, 2019 12:01 PM

Hmmm...I would say that in my experience using weed probably long than all of you....It does have side affects like not really being there, depression and anger are true especially when you don't get what you want....When you try to get off of it I wouldn't say it's addictive though ...I only have cravings when I'm around it..If I take it out of my life I don't crave it. Right when you start smoking and getting back into it though it's eye opening all over again like childhood days but now it's harder to drive because it's more intense after taking a year long break....I stopped because I never really drank or smoke cigs but weed I partook in half ounces a day at times and I ended up with Kidney cancer (11 Years before I got the tumor diagnosed in my kidney I was told by my PCA that he was worried with the amount of weed I was smoking because when you smoke weed it goes right to your kidneys in the form of proteins called Keytones ...Doctor told me that maybe not now but he did a calculation that said in 10 years or so I may experience something if I continued to use it and urged me to stop) Here I am now with a Kidney gone and it was stage 3 cancer clear cell renal carcinoma and it may return...and I have begun smoking weed again....Eh......It's rare for a 34 year old to get cancer and yet here I am and weed was the only delight I partook in excessively in life...Everyone seems to forget that this stuff is very viscous and can clog up oneself . Also...I'm definitely angrier/irritable, lewd, or rude in general when smoking and nicer when I'm not smoking. Weed definitely is great to not be involved in this world and die out from it like a branch that bears no fruit. If thats what you wish in your life then smoke weed. It's a struggle to stay away from the Euphoric effect when life is so stressful

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: September 19th, 2019 11:56 AM

Kind of amazing to watch people who voted for Pritzker being upset over this being in our town, when his campaign was funded by people ready to make big money when this happened. It will also be in Forest Park, and all around us, so we might as well get the taxes from it to help pay off the pension burden. And be glad we are not getting a casino too. Welcome to Potterville.

Mike Hanline  

Posted: September 18th, 2019 4:06 PM

As a longtime user of marijuana, I can confirm that it DOES NOT cause depression, rage, irrational behavior or psychosis. Now on the other hand, if you're already predisposed to any of those conditions, then yes, you should probably avoid it, just as you should also avoid alcohol or any other mood-altering substances. And what exactly does the length of time that THC is detectable in your system have to do with anything at all?? That doesn't mean you're stoned for 1-30 days...

Dan Price  

Posted: September 18th, 2019 12:49 PM

Great news! Removing stigma and "normalization" will do more to fight addiction and teenage cannabis use then the drug war and criminalization ever did! My company Kalikalé launched homegrowil.com because we see the value in connecting IL medical card holders with premium, organic, unadulterated, potent homegrown medicine and we believe in the "right to heal" yourself! We'll be announcing our new products and services in the coming months! All inclusive grow packages w/ everything you need to grow your own crop, harvest, process, and cure your flower + teaching and coaching! We've done our research and follow the CRTA law to a T! Congrats IL and OP for being cannabis friendly!

Liita Forsyth from RIVER FOREST  

Posted: September 18th, 2019 10:11 AM

As a child of an addict, I can confirm Lauren Brown's comments that weed causes depression, rage, irrational behavior and psychosis. Unlike alcohol which stays in one's system 1-5 hours, THC is detectable in the blood stream for 1-30 days after smoking just one joint. By opening recreational dispensaries, we send a clear message to our kids that it's a safe substance and it simply is not.

Ernie Morales from Oak Park  

Posted: September 18th, 2019 9:36 AM

Where's my car???

Steve Kelley from Oak Park  

Posted: September 17th, 2019 5:36 PM

Dude!

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