Peoria City Council Adopts Regulations On Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, Cultivation

By Nick Vlahos of the Journal Star

PEORIA — The immediate future of medical-marijuana facility approval in Peoria appears settled. The same might not be said for the debate that surrounds it.
As expected, the City Council approved new regulations Tuesday night regarding future locations for cannabis cultivation centers and dispensaries. Henceforth, such medical-pot facilities are subject to public hearings.
The council is to have final say, after the Planning and Zoning Commission considers each case and offers its suggestion. The public, pro or con, would be free to address either body.
But not long after the 10-1 vote at the Peoria County Courthouse, some Peorians who live near a proposed, already-approved dispensary said they wish they had been afforded that opportunity.
“We still have a huge heartache with not having any input about where this dispensary goes,” Dana Olson said. “This is going to be another bad train wreck for our city.”
Olson resides just north of a proposed dispensary at Radnor Road and Willow Knolls Drive. That location was authorized under a previous policy.
The policy allowed cultivation centers in industrial-zoned areas. In August, the council approved the zoning restriction but did not require public hearings. City staff determined dispensaries could locate in areas that also allow pharmacies, with no council approval necessary.
“I have problems with it thrust at us without any kind of warning,” said John Tedford, who operates a business located along Willow Knolls Drive.
Another dispensary has been approved for a strip mall along University Street, just north of Forrest Hill Avenue. A cultivation center has been approved for a location along Galena Road, near the northern Peoria-Peoria Heights boundary.
Later this month, the state is expected to reveal successful bidders for cultivation centers and dispensaries.
Of seven people who addressed the council about medical marijuana, four were opposed. Of the three supporters, two were representatives of applicants for the proposed Peoria locations.
One of the representatives said medical cannabis can provide economic opportunities, including tax revenue and middle-class jobs.
“I’ve been listening to you guys complain about bills you have that you can’t pay,” Ben Rediger told the council. “There’s no new ideas brought to the table to do that. This is the beginning of that.”
Another pro-pot speaker took a more personal turn.
Bloomington resident Rachel Martinez said medical marijuana helped ease her young son’s pain. He died earlier this year from brain cancer.
“It’s safe. It’s natural,” Martinez said. “It’s nothing to scare your children about. There’s no scare in marijuana.”
The regulations the council approved are to expire Jan. 1, 2018, the same day the state Medical Cannabis Pilot Program is to end.
At-large Councilman Chuck Weaver, who cast the only dissenting votes, expressed concern about the status of Peoria restrictions if the state extends the program. He also wondered what might happen if the General Assembly approves recreational use of pot.
Mayor Jim Ardis suggested it’s difficult to vote with a hypothetical situation in mind.
“We have no idea,” he said. “I don’t think the state is going to do anything in the next year. At least we have something now.”

Nick Vlahos can be reached at 686-3285 or Follow him on Twitter @VlahosNick.