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Naperville approves 3 marijuana dispensary applications; companies expect to begin sales by end of year

All three applications submitted to Naperville to sell recreational marijuana in the city have been approved, and all of the companies plan to have their dispensaries operating by the end of the year.

The city approved the three applications the first week of September, meaning all three of the city’s occupancy permits for the dispensaries within the city are filled, said Linda LaCloche, spokeswoman for the city of Naperville.

The permits were granted to Sunnyside Dispensary at 2740 W. 75th Street, Zen Leaf Dispensary at 1516 N. Naper Blvd. and Green Thumb Industries at 1700 Quincy Ave. — the city’s only existing medical marijuana dispensary.

All three companies can now move forward with applying for and obtaining required permits — including building and signage — before doing work on the buildings, LaCloche said. City and state inspections will be required before any of the dispensaries open or begin selling recreational marijuana to the public.

Green Thumb Industries is aiming to begin its recreational marijuana sales in early October, said Linda Marsicano, spokeswoman for the company, in an email.

The company is rebranding the interior and exterior of its existing Naperville medical dispensary to Rise Naperville, and it is expected to look similar to the Rise location in Niles, Marsicano said.

Three months ago, Green Thumb Industries added 20 employee positions to prepare for the addition of recreational sales, Marsicano said. The rebranding also added 15 construction jobs.

Zen Leaf is taking over the space of a former Tom & Eddie’s burger restaurant near the intersection of Ogden Avenue and Naper Boulevard, less than a mile away from Interstate 88, in north Naperville.

Zen Leaf plans to remodel the 4,500-square-foot building into an “upscale shopping environment” and hire more than 30 people, company officials said. The company plans to have the dispensary ready for state inspection and approval to open in the last quarter of this year.

“Zen Leaf is excited to bring an upscale adult-use cannabis shopping experience to the rejuvenated north Naperville retail corridor,” said Chris Fotopoulos, executive vice president for Chicago-based Zen Leaf Dispensaries, in an emailed statement. “Zen Leaf Naperville will create new jobs, generate substantial new tax revenue for the community and provide safe, legal access to regulated cannabis products for adults.”

To help navigate the cannabis products, bud tenders will be on hand to help guide customers’ experience, Fotopoulos said in the statement.

All three applications submitted to Naperville to sell recreational marijuana in the city have been approved, and all of the companies plan to have their dispensaries operating by the end of the year.

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Adult-Use Recreational Cannabis

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA) went into effect on January 1, 2020, legalizing and regulating the production, consumption and sale of recreational cannabis in Illinois. The CRTA allows adults over the age of 21 to possess and privately use recreational cannabis in limited quantities in Illinois; however, use of cannabis in public places is prohibited.

Existing Medical Cannabis Regulations

In 2013 the State of Illinois enacted the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act which became effective on January 1, 2014. Per the adopted act, the cultivation and dispensing of medical marijuana for use in serious diseases became permitted in all municipalities, subject to the limitations of the Act. While municipalities were not permitted to opt-out of having these facilities in their city, they were permitted to adopt stricter zoning regulations than those provided in the Act.

The City adopted zoning regulations for medical cannabis facilities in December 2013. In addition to the location requirements specified by the State of Illinois, the City added additional separation requirements between these facilities and residential properties.

For reference, the City currently has one medical cannabis dispensing facility located on an industrial-zoned property on Quincy Avenue.

City staff will use the existing medical cannabis regulations as a starting point for discussions related to the proposed adult-use cannabis regulations.

Adult-Use Recreational Cannabis Dispensaries in the City of Naperville

While cities cannot prohibit members of the public from using or possessing cannabis within city limits (so long as such use and possession is within the parameters of the CRTA), cities have been granted the ability, through their zoning authority, to regulate or prohibit the location of cannabis businesses within city limits. This is unlike the 2013 Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act which did not allow cities to prohibit medical cannabis facilities in their municipality.

The CRTA also loosened some zoning requirements that were previously established through the medical cannabis pilot program.

At the May 5 City Council meeting, Council members approved a staff-proposed roadmap which outlines the required steps, input process, and timing related to the creation of zoning regulations for adult-use recreational marijuana dispensaries in the City of Naperville.

Step 1 (COMPLETE): Under the first step in the process, Council members held a City Council Workshop on June 22 at 7 p.m. to provide input and direction on possible locations for dispensaries, parking requirements, and how many dispensaries could operate in the city if council members vote to approve the sales.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the June 22 workshop was conducted using Zoom Webinar technology. Members of the public were given two opportunities to provide input, including a survey to gauge public opinion and an opportunity to speak during or submit a comment for the June 22 workshop.

Step 2 (COMPLETE): Staff will draft an adult-use cannabis zoning amendment to the City Code based on discussions from the June 22 Workshop.

Step 3 (COMPLETE): The adult-use cannabis draft zoning amendment will be presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) for a public hearing after the City Council Workshop.

The public hearing for this case was held on July 15, 2020 at which time the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the Cannabis Facilities Text Amendment, as proposed.

Step 4 (COMPLETE): Following a PZC vote on the proposed ordinance language, the ordinance was presented to the City Council for a first reading (August 4, 2020) and second reading (August 18, 2020).

Step 5 (COMPLETE): The ordinance will return to a subsequent City Council meeting for a final vote.

At the Aug. 18 City Council meeting, the City Council held the final reading of the cannabis facilities text amendment and approved the ordinance as presented with one amendment to increase the minimum distance between dispensaries to one mile.

The ordinance, Section 6-2-32 (Cannabis Facilities), will provide regulations for both medical and adult-use cannabis facilities and permits a maximum of 3 medical and/or adult-use dispensaries within the Naperville corporate limits.

A detailed summary of the approved ordinance, as well as the signed ordinance, is available at Related Meeting Agendas and Minutes page.

The City of Naperville has hosted several discussions (beginning in July 2019) as to whether adult-use cannabis dispensing facilities should be permitted within Naperville city limits. Over 400 members of the public spoke on this topic over multiple meetings before the City Council, offering both positions in support and against local adult-use cannabis dispensing facilities.

Members of the public have been given the opportunity to provide input during this process by providing public comment during public meetings, voting on the advisory referendum included on the March 17, 2020 ballot, and an online survey to gauge public opinion.

View meeting materials and other important information related to recreational adult-use cannabis sales and facilities in Naperville.

Cannabis Facilities Ordinance

Section 6-2-32 of the Cannabis Facilities ordinance, approved by the City Council on Aug. 18, 2020, provides regulations for both medical and adult-use cannabis facilities and permits a maximum of 3 medical and/or adult-use dispensaries within the Naperville corporate limits.

Learn more about the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act and what this law allows municipalities like Naperville to do.