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Many marijuana businesses in Illinois fear they wont' be ready for recreational sales on Jan. 1

Ally Marotti, Dan Petrella and Jamie Munks, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

Many of the questions the industry is raising are answered in the law itself or in guidance issued by state agencies overseeing the rollout, Mitchell said. And those that haven't will be answered in due time as craft growers, infusers and other businesses come on line, he said.

Industry operators say their most urgent concern is that the law, as interpreted by the administration, prohibits medical marijuana dispensaries from relocating if they add recreational pot sales.

Only businesses licensed to sell medical marijuana are eligible for the first wave of recreational licenses. The zoning requirements for Illinois' medical cannabis program relegated some dispensaries to industrial sites that lack parking areas or signs directing customers to businesses.

Chicago-based Pharmacann wants to relocate two of its five Illinois dispensaries. One is in a medical office building in North Aurora that would struggle to handle increased customers The other is in an industrial area in Romeoville, just down the street from a truck repair shop and welding school.

"We need to be able to relocate that existing site in order to accommodate, to the extent possible, the marketplace on Jan. 1," said Jeremy Unruh, director of public and regulatory affairs at Pharmacann said. "It's an imperative, not just an, 'Oh sure, it would be nice.' "

The architects of the law, state Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, have gone back and forth with the governor on the issue. Pritzker noted in a letter to the lawmakers Aug. 27 that dispensary operators can still seek licenses for a second retail location.

 

Mitchell said the decision by Naperville's City Council, which will keep the town's 3C Compassionate Care Center medical dispensary from selling recreational pot, won't change the administration's approach.

"The opt-out was built in the law for a reason: to provide for local control," Mitchell said. "It doesn't seem yet that that issue is systemic. If it becomes that way, we'll take another look."

But the industry also has concerns about how the administration is handling the application process for those secondary location licenses.

Companies are required to open their second store in the same designated area as their existing medical dispensary. They must show the state that they have at least applied for local zoning approval, and they can't open within 1,500 feet of another licensed medical or recreational pot shop.

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