The City of Evanston has decided to allow a dispensary for medical marijuana here.
We applaud the City for taking this step, making Evanston the first or one of the first locations on the North Shore for the dispensing of medical marijuana. The statute allows only 60 such dispensaries in the State, and one for Evanston and Niles townships, and we are glad that the City is working to get a dispensary here.
Under the statute, a doctor may prescribe 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks for a known and continuing patient who is suffering from one of the illnesses specified. We have read about the shabbiness, the loitering and the illegal prescriptions that have accompanied some dispensaries in other cities, but we trust that the City will monitor this one.
So, putting aside winks and nods, tsk-tsks and V signs, let us take a look at the good a dispensary for medical marijuana might do for our City. The state will allow us, as a home-rule unit, to levy a 4% tax on the marijuana dispensed here, and City staff have projected that the City can garner between $20,000 and $40,000 annually in sales tax revenues if a 4% tax on medical marijuana is implemented. These figures are based on an assumption that between 0.2 and 1 percent of the 180,000 people in Evanston and Niles townships – 360 to 1,800 people – would make purchases here. Even these conservative numbers look good.
Medical marijuana is critical to the health of certain people afflicted with chronic or wasting illnesses. Marijuana is said to ease the pain of glaucoma and other manageable but incurable diseases. Those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer have found that marijuana alleviates the nausea that can last for days after a treatment. With nausea controlled, the patient is often able to eat, thus gaining strength to withstand the chemotherapy and fight the cancer.
Under state law, dispensaries must not be located “within 1,000 feet of the property line of a public or private preschool or elementary or secondary school or day care center, day care home, group day care home, or part-day child care facility” or in a primarily residential district.
Thus the unleased space in the Maple Avenue garage, 1800 Maple Ave., is an optimal location for a dispensary here. It is in the area where many Evanstonians go at least weekly and is accessible by public transportation.
A remaining concern is the potential federal action. Although the State of Illinois permits the medical use of marijuana, federal laws are not so permissive. The Attorney General, the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency feel no need to respect state laws that appear to trump the federal ban on marijuana use.
Congress can be our ally in this. In May the House of Representatives voted to stop federal law enforcement against medical marijuana in states where it is permitted and to ban the use of federal funds to interfere with such state laws. Senator Rand Paul is sponsoring similar legislation to protect the use of medical marijuana in states where it is legal.
Even this do-nothing Congress can see that no one battling a serious illness should have to sneak around for relief.