Medical marijuana rules go to St. Clair County Board

News-DemocratMay 5, 2014 

— Where should marijuana be locally grown and sold now that state law allows its use to treat some medical conditions? That's the question facing St. Clair County officials.

The St. Clair County Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously OK'd Monday a proposed ordinance dictating local rules for medical marijuana facilities. The ordinance still must be approved by the St. Clair County Board.

Zoning Board member Gene Rhoden said he reluctantly voted in favor of the proposal.

"Even though I will reluctantly support this, I do believe that marijuana is the devil's weed and I hope by voting yes it will turn out to be something worthwhile," Rhoden said. Rhoden is a reverend with Flat Creek Missionary Baptist Church in East Carondelet.

In August, Gov. Pat Quinn approved the use of medical marijuana to treat debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and a host of other conditions. Doctors may prescribe 2.5 ounces of cannabis per each patient every two weeks.

St. Clair County Zoning Director Anne Markevich said the county's current zoning code contains no provisions for medical cannabis facilities. Since it is not a permitted use, the current county code prohibits such facilities and is in conflict with state law.

Dave Schneidewind, attorney for the Zoning Board, said the facilities would be allowed to apply for a state permit after receiving a special use permit from the County Board. The facilities would be housed in five county districts zoned for agriculture, business and industrial uses.

The local zoning ordinance will be in addition to proposed state rules detailing the administration of medical marijuana. State officials are now collecting public input on a set of proposed rules, then in June a committee of state legislators will review the rules.

The proposed state rules require cultivation centers to have a live security camera surveillance viewable by state police and state agriculture officials to inspect the site at least once a week. A cultivation center also may not be located within 2,500 feet of a school, day care or area zoned residential.

Schneidewind said the county would measure from the property line of restricted areas regardless of where a city-county boundary lies.

"If there's a church inside Mascoutah and somebody wants to place a cultivation center or dispensary outside the city limits, we would still have to measure from the closest residential or protected use area no matter where it was located," Schneidewind.

The rules also prohibit a patient's possession or use of cannabis on school buses, in motor vehicles, in any correction facility, private residences used for child care, public places and near children.

Up to 21 cultivation centers, which will grow the marijuana, may be created around the state. One center may be located within a state police district. The state police district encompassing the Illinois Tollway System will not have a cultivation center.

The local state police district includes St. Clair, Madison, Bond, Clinton and Monroe counties.

Entrepreneurs hoping to establish a cultivation center ultimately must receive approval from state officials. Applications to open a center must include a $25,000 non-refundable fee and proof of $500,000 in assets.

If approved, the owners of the center must pay $200,000 for a permit and $100,000 annually to maintain the permit.

Up to 60 dispensaries will be permitted around the state. Dispensary applications must include a $5,000 non-refundable fee and proof of $400,000 in assets. If approved, dispensary owners must pay a $30,000 registration fee and $25,000 renewal fee to maintain a permit annually.

Medical marijuana may be prescribed in 20 states and Washington, D.C. States neighboring Illinois do not allow the use of medical marijuana.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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