Realizing that most of the mainstream media in Chicagoland leans to the left on social issues such as gay marriage, amnesty for illegal aliens, sanctity of life, and in pushing for the legalization of medical marijuana, I received a positive jolt of common sense when on January 16 a kindred spirit was found in a Daily Herald editorial, "Towns wise to prepare on medical marijuana."
Although the bill to legalize medical marijuana never made it out of legislative committee in the Lame Duck sessions of the Illinois General Assembly, the issue still has life and will surely be revisited in the 98th General Assembly where Democrats now hold vote-proof majorities in both houses.
The Daily Herald related how several communities in Lake County, possibly reading the tea leaves, rather than watching and waiting to see what might happen, they are looking at their zoning regulations as an assist in providing valuable tools in providing controls should the General Assembly decide to place a nonprofit cannabis dispensary in their community. Municipal leaders would not be able to prevent a dispensary from opening, but they could control where it opened through zoning rules. Barrington, Buffalo Grove, Grayslake, Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, and Wauconda are among Lake County towns where officials have discussed proposed legislation in recent weeks.
Although a medical marijuana proposal in the 98th General Assembly could vary in detail from House Bill 30 which lacked three votes to pass during the 97th General Assembly in 2012, following is the gist of House Bill 30:
House Bill 30 focused only on medical marijuana and included a three-year test program in which qualified patients would have been limited to 2.5 ounces of marijuana over a a14-day period. The local focus of that bill was the creation of nonprofit cannabis dispensaries, which would have been allowed to grow, harvest and distribute marijuana. They would have been limited to one per state Senate district.
Expressed in the Daily Herald editorial was skepticism about the value of medical marijuana "until the board can evaluate the potential effects of a particular bill, but it's not hard to see the momentum for in in legislatures around the country nor to imagine some of the consequences if such a measure becomes law." Also expressed was how local officials are well advised to do some advance planning to be ready should a medical marijuana bill pass in the 98th General Assembly.
Being curious to learn what my own home community of Lake Bluff and neighboring Lake Forest were doing to plan for the eventuality of being informed by Springfield that a marijuana dispensary was deemed a good fit for either community, scooped by the Daily Herald), I checked out my local Lake Forest LEAD website, "Leading Efforts Against Drugs" (www.leadingefforts.org), located on the second floor of the Gorton Community Center at 400 E. Illinois Road. Noted at LEAD's website was a second website, "Speakup! Prevention Coalition" (www.speakupcoalition.org), a division of LEAD. Andy Duran is the Executive Director of LEAD/SPEAKUP.
It was on the "Speakup! Prevention Coalition" site that I found the resolution of the Village of Lake Bluff Board of Trustees approved at its Dec. 10, 2012 meeting which directs its Planning Commission and Zoning board of Appeals to consider amending the Village Zoning Code to include Distribution Facilities as a special use should the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act" be signed into law by the Governor.
Below the Lake Bluff resolution on the "Speakup! Prevention Coalition" site is one passed by Lake Forest unanimously by the Lake Forest city Council on December 3rd, 2012, which instructed the Plan Commission to modify the zoning code to make medical marijuana dispensaries subject to approval of a Special Use Permit before opening, with recommendations due to the City Council by the Plan commission early in 2013. A moratorium against the opening of any dispensaries is in place pending the conclusion of the deliberations. www.speakupcoalition.org
Below both resolutions is a letter originally written by Andy Duran, Executive Director of LEAD/SPEAKUP in Lake Forest, for a local and popular website covering LakeForest/Lake Bluff (Gazebo News Reader Forum) on October 31, 2012. It is well worth reading in its entirety. In Duran's letter is documented research from other states and municipalities where medical marijuana has already been legalized. www.speakupcoalition.org
Conclusions include (The points receive further clarification in Duran's letter.):
1. A great increase in public safety issues.
2. Decrease in property values.
3. A great increase in youth access and use of marijuana.
Noted also are three specific steps that can be taken by city councils to prohibit a "registered organization" from opening its doors in your town or community.
1. Exercise a "citizen ballot initiative."
2. Establish a "zoning ordinance" stating that use is illegal as it conflicts with local ordinances, state statutes, and other drug laws.
3. Draft a specific moratorium on allowing use in any zoned area until further research can be done.
Medical marijuana and marijuana legalization efforts send the wrong messages to youth that marijuana is not only safe but that it is a medicine. Legislation and legislative efforts of this kind threaten public health and significantly undermine prevention efforts of community anti-drug coalitions throughout the state of Illinois.
As Lake Forest resides within two senate districts (Districts 29 and 30), if legislation were passed unchanged from House Bill 30, there could be two dispensaries and two cultivation areas in Lake Forest alone!
Now is the time to act before the 98th General Assembly brings forth a followup medical marijuana proposal which, if passed into law, would become the 18th state with an effective medical marijuana law. House Bill 30 failed to pass by only three votes.
States that have fully implemented medical marijuana programs are now experiencing "buyer's remorse." They have seen firsthand that dispensaries lead to increased crime and adversely affect the quality of life int heir communities. Such was reported as happening in Oct. of 2011 in the Daily Tribune in Oakland County, Michigan, at dispensaries in Lansing, Ann Arbor and Battle Creek. .
Be a voice in our own community. According to CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) there is a direct correlation between "medical" marijuana initiatives and decreases in perception of harm and social disapproval. States that have "medical" marijuana programs have among the lowest perceptions of harm among youth in this nation.
Contact your State Senators and State Representative to urge them to vote "no" on future legislation to legalize marijuana for medical use. Also urge your city councils to pass an ordinance prohibiting dispensaries prior to legislation passing at the state level. Lastly, raise awareness in your community and among your friends about the pitfalls connected with the legalization of medical marijuana and organize a letter writing campaign.
Posted initially at Illinois Review on Tuesday, January 22, 2013.