LITCHFIELD — Illinois’ pilot medical marijuana program could mean about 20 new jobs for the Litchfield area.
Officials with the Illinois Medical Marijuana Law Group approached the Litchfield City Council on March 27 on behalf of a small group of businesspeople interested in opening a medical marijuana dispensary in the town of about 7,000 people.
Illinois’ Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act calls for a medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation center in each of the 22 Illinois State Police districts. Litchfield is on the eastern edge of District 18, which serves Calhoun, Greene, Jersey, Macoupin and Montgomery counties.
Tom Erickson, a paralegal who spoke on behalf of attorney Timothy Fitzgerald and the Chicago-based Illinois Medical Marijuana Law Group, said if the application succeeds, it will mean new, well-paying jobs for Litchfield and the surrounding area.
“These are serious jobs,” Erickson said. “These people have to be licensed, and they have to know what they’re talking about.”
Under the law that has not yet been implemented, the medical cannabis will be grown at cultivation centers registered by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. The marijuana will be purchased at dispensaries registered by the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Patients must receive an identification card through the Department of Public Health and have at least one of 35 debilitating medical conditions to qualify for medicinal marijuana use.
Mayor Steve Dougherty said this is not the first time he’s heard interest in opening a dispensary within the community. Litchfield is on Illinois 16 and Interstate 55, which Dougherty believes makes it an easily accessible place for a dispensary.
The state police hub for District 18 is about a mile outside of Litchfield city limits. Erickson said the law group’s clients will require the cooperation of the city of Litchfield to properly zone the facility needed for the dispensary.
Dougherty described Litchfield as a place with a remarkable amount of fast-food restaurants for a town its size. He said these restaurants provide jobs, but they aren’t enough to keep the younger generation from moving away.
“That’s great for minimum-wage jobs, but it doesn’t keep our kids here after they graduate, and that’s my mission,” Dougherty said. “If it means jobs, of course we’re going to listen.”
The group of businesspeople, which has not identified itself, has chosen to speak publicly through its attorney. Erickson said the clients are not from Litchfield but from within District 18. Specifics about the group have not been released.
Before Gov. Pat Quinn signed the medical marijuana law last August, Fitzgerald worked with the licensing of casinos, gaming and liquor. His law group is representing several clients throughout the state interested in opening dispensaries and cultivation centers.
Page 2 of 2 – The state law indicates that the facilities cannot be within residential areas or near schools. Dougherty said the city could not offer an official position until more information from the state is available. Final regulations are pending under the departments of Public Health, Agriculture and Financial and Professional Regulation due to the need to process public comments.
The state’s expensive and strict licensing policies are designed to keep the dispensaries and cultivation centers within qualified hands. Erickson speculated the application process will not begin until June at the earliest.
“If you’re going to do this, you have to put about $250,000 in,” Erickson said. “This is not for kids and hippies. It’s for businesspeople.”
Contact Maggie Menderski: 788-1526, [email protected], twitter.com/MaggieSJR.
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