Photo by Fred Pollard
Godfrey resident Beverly Roberts speaks to the village regarding her disapproval of a local medical marijuana cultivation center. Municipalities are going to be dealing with the issue of manufacturing and dispensing of cannabis now that Illinois has approved the use of medical marijuana in the state.
For years, Godfrey has had plans in place to deal with weeds in the village.
Now, it is looking at how to deal with “weed” in the village.
The state has approved the use of medical marijuana in Illinois, but that is as far as it has gone to this point. Godfrey is now discussing whether grow operations should be allowed … and if it is inevitable.
“We want to be clear,” Village Attorney Tom Long said. “This is a state law. This is nothing Godfrey has mandated. We as a community didn’t pass this legislation. It is just our job to interpret and comply with state law.”
Godfrey’s Public Safety Committee addressed the issue last Monday. The Illinois Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, passed Jan. 1, opens the door to physicians prescribing marijuana, allowing patients up to 5 ounces of marijuana per month to deal with medical issues involving chronic pain.
Two distinct issues go hand-in-hand with the proposal. Cultivation centers, where cannabis will be grown, and dispensing centers, where it will be sold, each have their own sets of issues and restrictions.
Plans include 21 cultivation centers throughout the state, one in each police district, with 60 dispensary locations, a minimum of two in each district. State Police District 11 consists of Madison, Monroe, Clinton, Bond and St. Clair counties.
Under the law, the Department of Public Health will regulate the writing of prescriptions, the Department of Agriculture will administer and regulate the cultivation centers, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation will regulate the dispensary centers, and the Department of Revenue will collect the taxes generated by the centers.
After local Realtor Rick Lauschke was approached by potential buyers looking to grow in the area, the village began looking into the “do’s and don’ts” of cannabis within its city limits.
Godfrey will directly see none of the proposed 7 percent tax the product generates, as that will go directly to the state of Illinois. The village also will have no jurisdiction over the operation, as the state will oversee operations through a state agency, and would not be responsible for providing security for the facilities.
“What would be our liability?” Long asked. “We really would have no liability; probably less liability than a liquor license.”
Village Trustee Mark Stewart questioned how practical issues would affect the village.
“Could we say the odors cannot come over the property line, and what about drainage and waste issues?” he asked.
Long said he assumes it would be regulated the same as issues with any other business in the village.
Cultivation centers would not be allowed within 2,500 feet of schools, day cares, and residentially zoned areas, and dispensing centers could not be in a residentially zoned area at all. Long says much of the restrictions are open to interpretation and would be an issue resolved between the village and the state.
One thing is clear, however. The village cannot tell Illinois it does not want marijuana in the village at all.
“We can’t say they can’t be here, but we can say where they will be located,” Long said. “We can say where it is going to be, we just can’t say ‘nowhere.’”
Trustee Eldon Williams reminded the room the issue at hand was medical marijuana, only available through prescription by a licensed physician.
“But if you look at the other states, as soon as they start taking in money for medical marijuana, then they all want to expand who can obtain it,” Trustee Jeff Weber said.
Beverly Roberts of Godfrey addressed the Village Board, voicing her opposition to the idea.
“How can we make legal such a mind-altering drug?” Roberts asked. “It dulls the senses, and it is not a cure or a solution … Godfrey is setting itself up for deterioration in this community. The acceptance of marijuana as legal for any reason is a mockery of morality and decency.
“May God have mercy if this goes through.”
Roberts, who owns Cleta’s Nutrition, also said her plans for a new building in Godfrey are on hold, pending the outcome of the issue.
Emmylou Cole is a Godfrey resident who supports the idea of local cannabis production.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Cole said. “If it is regulated and legitimate, what’s the problem? Will the facility produce local jobs?”
Marsha Harszy of Granite City said the issue is not just about dollars and cents, but compassion, as well.
“I am a firm believer and supporter in the medical use of marijuana,” Harszy said. “Many people suffer from chronic pain or diseases such as cancer. These individuals experience relief from their sometimes crippling symptoms when using marijuana.
“Unless you are one of those people, you have no clue what they go through or how bad their pain is, so you have no right to judge them.”
“I don’t personally use marijuana, but I am strongly in favor of it,” Daniel Black of Alton said. “Having just lost my 44-year-old brother last month to cancer, I have no doubt medical marijuana could have been beneficial to him.”
The issue now goes to the Godfrey Planning and Zoning Committee, where potential locations will be discussed before being brought back before the Village Board as early as next month.
Whatever the outcome, it certainly seems the normalcy of city leaders discussing how to grow and dispense marijuana has become strange “bud” true.