Peoria City Council discusses possible new restrictions on marijuana cultivation centers

By Nick Vlahos of the Journal Star 
Posted Nov. 26, 2014 @ 1:00 pm 

PEORIA — All this talk about medical marijuana might be giving Chuck Grayeb the munchies.

“There are so many things coming down from the government, federal as well as state, that I think are being rammed down our throats, I think I’m in a chili-eating contest,” the 2nd District Peoria City Councilman said. “There’s only so much you can take and it becomes too much.”

Metaphorical indigestion for Grayeb and some colleagues appears to be the result of the state’s Medical Cannabis Pilot Program and the city’s attempts to manage it.

During its meeting Tuesday night, the council discussed a proposal that would require possible locations of marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries to be subject to public hearings. Additional stipulations are likely, based on council members’ comments.

The word “medical” in conjunction with marijuana almost certainly will be made official in the proposed zoning-ordinance change. Some council members — who suggested the state might approve recreational pot use eventually — said the proposal didn’t appear specific in that regard.

“It would allow future City Councils to decide whether or not they want to add additional regulations, or even allow recreational use,” at-large Councilwoman Beth Jensen said.

From a zoning standpoint, medical and recreational marijuana uses are not at all similar, Community Development Director Ross Black said. Still, he suggested the medical requirement would be an easy addition to the proposal.

Not quite as easy, apparently, would be efforts to make the proposal retroactive.

The state has received applications for one cultivation center and two dispensary locations in Peoria. The council did not vote regarding sites but did approve staff to issue letters of recommendation for applicants.

Jensen suggested the lack of direct council action might allow for the proposed changes to apply to those applicants. Black and city attorney Don Leist didn’t appear to agree with her.

“There are pieces of paper out there that indicate the use is legal at those locations,” Black said.

Said Leist, who believes the city would lose a court challenge: “It’s my opinion that it’s out of the council’s hands now.”

The revised proposal might be in council hands next month for a final vote.

At-large Councilman Ryan Spain concurred with Jensen’s medical-marijuana requirement. Spain also agreed with Grayeb’s lament about state mandates and defended the city’s home-rule authority.

“We see it all the time where the state Legislature makes decisions imposed upon us without much recourse,” Spain said. “What we do know is we need to continue to reinforce that local decision-making is important.”

The council also approved liquor sales at 315 Main St. Sauced, a proposed restaurant, is to serve beer and wine at that Downtown location. It once housed Pounders, a notorious tavern that closed in 2012 following multiple criminal incidents.

As a condition of approval, Sauced proprietor Anthony Harris agreed to a plan of operation. Among other things, the plan requires Harris to install video-surveillance cameras and close at 11 p.m. weekdays and midnight on weekends.

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