Peoria may soon be entering the race for a medical marijuana cultivation center.
The City Council is slated to vote Tuesday on changes in zoning policy that would allow for a pot production facility to be built in the city. The measure is not setting up a specific site for a cultivation center, though, nor is it a solid offer to bring one to town. However, it is a step the city has to take if it wants to be home to one of just a handful of such facilities throughout Illinois.
Under the state's new medical marijuana program, only one cultivation center is allowed per Illinois State Police District. In District 8, Peoria's stiffest competition is Delavan. The small Tazewell County city has already gone through the proper zoning changes, has found a site for the facility, and has even identified a company that would like to build a cultivation center in town.
Ultimately, the state will decide where the grow operations in each ISP District will be set up. While Delavan seems to have quite a head start in the process, Peoria City Councilman Ryan Spain says the River City is far from out of the competition.
"[The process] is not about which community was the first one to raise their hand in support of a cultivation center, but what application is the most compelling, most successful, most thoughtful," said Spain.
During a first reading of the zoning change in July, no one on the City Council seemed to be firmly against the idea of building a pot production facility. Furthermore, Mayor Jim Ardis expressed support of going even further with Peoria's involvement in the budding new industry of medical marijuana.
"I'm not quite as enthralled with the cultivation side as I am with the actual distribution side, just because the sales taxes and so on," said Ardis, adding that, with the state allowing for 60 dispensaries as opposed to 21 cultivation centers, there would be less competition if the city opted to pursue distribution over production.
No matter what the City Council decides to do next week, it appears the process of bringing legal pot to Peoria is going to be an arduous process. State officials only ironed out rules for Illinois' four year medical marijuana pilot program, already eight months old, in July.
The state is expected to start accepting applications, both for patients and for those wanting to set up pot businesses, in September. It could be early 2015 before medical pot becomes a reality in Illinois.