Some Lake County leaders fear impact of medical marijuana law

ILLINOIS: As the project coordinator for the Lake County Underage Drinking and Drug Prevention Task Force, Bill Gentes said he’s worried that a bill passed by the state legislature to legalize medical marijuana could prove harmful to local teenagers.

“The law allows for someone with a medical marijuana card to be prescribed 2.5 ounces of pot every 14 days, which comes out to roughly 13 joints a day,” Gentes said, speaking at a recent Lake County Municipal League meeting that tackled issues ranging from the local heroin epidemic and prescription drug abuse, to medical marijuana and the state’s new concealed carry law.

The medical marijuana proposal has already gotten state legislators’ approval, but awaits the signature of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to become law.

“That means, if someone smokes as many as six joints a day, they would still have seven joints lying around the house,” Gentes added. “And where are those joints going to go? The kids are going to get their hands on them.”

Many of Gentes’ concerns about the implications of the proposed law on local communities are shared by elected officials and law enforcement officers, with mayors scrambling to ensure new zoning ordinances are in place and police officers questioning how the law would affect DUI arrests.

Now, with Quinn indicating he is “very open-minded” about the proposal – which would not take effect until Jan. 1 – local officials are wasting no time in creating new zoning and planning ordinances that would limit the marijuana-growing warehouses and dispensaries to areas of the community that would have the least impact on area residents.

“It is mostly a zoning issue, and we’re trying to establish a zoning area in town that would not impact residents in a negative way,” said Round Lake Beach Mayor Rich Hill, who explained one appropriate location might be in an industrial park.

“This is similar to an adult-use ordinance,” he added. “The local zoning laws will be tailored to keep the medical marijuana businesses away from families and kids, but still allow access to those who have been granted a medical marijuana use card.”

Medical marijuana cards would be issued only to qualifying patients who are diagnosed by a physician as having one of more than 40 debilitating conditions listed in the state statute, including cancer, multiple sclerosis or severe fibromyalgia.


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