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The Illinois House passed the Medical Cannabis Act (MCA) last week that would go into effect on January 1, 2014, pending Senate approval.  The legislation is extremely lengthy because it addresses everything from how to legally cultivate, sell, possess, and consume medical marijuana, to how cannabis cultivation centers and dispensaries will be taxed, licensed, and regulated by various state agencies.  Of particular interest is the impact the MCA would have on municipalities.

The MCA specifically limits home rule power and has implications for zoning.  While the legislation provides that local governments “may enact reasonable zoning ordinances and resolutions,” the same section states that local governments “may not unreasonably prohibit the cultivation, dispensing, and use of medical cannabis” as provided by the MCA.  Medical marijuana would be highly regulated under the MCA compared to other states’ equivalent legislation.  For example, a cultivation center must be at least 2,500 feet from schools, day care centers, and residential zones. A center also must implement a comprehensive security and inventory plan, as well as other requirements overseen by the State Police, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, and the Department of Agriculture.

An item of concern for local governments is the need to review language of existing cannabis and drug paraphernalia ordinances, as well as updating law enforcement personnel of any changes to those ordinances.  The regulation of cannabis would still remain within the realm of local laws, but consideration would need to be given to adapting current cannabis ordinances so as not to run afoul of the MCA’s provisions for legal cultivation, sales, and possession of cannabis.  For example, a general cannabis ordinance may be considered unenforceable unless its language and/or severability provisions are properly crafted to exempt legally owned cannabis from cannabis grown, bought, sold, consumed, or possessed outside the Act.

ZRFM will continue to monitor the progress and implications of the MCA.  Consult your local government attorney for more information on the MCA and how to review and update your municipality’s ordinances if the MCA becomes law.

Brad Stewart

Author: Brad Stewart