The North Riverside Village Board could lock in regulations for allowing adult-use cannabis dispensaries within its boundaries early next month after the North Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission voted 5-0 last week to recommend conditions for such businesses.

Commissioners have recommended limiting cannabis-related businesses in North Riverside to dispensaries only, side-stepping growing and distribution businesses as well as businesses where cannabis products might be consumed.

While they didn’t limit the number of dispensaries that would be allowed to open, commissioners agreed that their other restrictions likely would keep the number small, probably no more than two. 

There’s no guarantee the owner of any cannabis dispensary will seek to open a location in North Riverside.

Planning and zoning commissioners also recommended that dispensaries be limited to the village’s commercial districts, which by and large are located away from residential districts.

Dispensaries would be allowed essentially on the North Riverside Park Mall property and the commercial properties to the east and north of Cermak Road along Harlem Avenue.

The businesses would also be allowed in the strip mall at First Avenue and Cermak Road and at the National Guard Armory property, should the Army National Guard ever vacate in the future.

While there are commercial properties elsewhere along Cermak Road, Desplaines Avenue and 26th Street, dispensaries would not be allowed at any of those locations because of a recommendation that prohibits them within 175 feet of a residential district.

In addition, planning and zoning commissioners recommended requiring dispensaries to provide off-street parking, the details of which still need to be worked out.

Perhaps most importantly, commissioners are recommending that cannabis dispensaries be allowed as a special use, which triggers a process that involves public notice in the newspaper, notification to nearby property owners and a public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission, where the public can present written or verbal testimony.

Any recommendation for granting a special use for a cannabis dispensary by the Planning and Zoning Commission would then be vetted by the village board, which has final say over any application.

The village’s attorney, Mike Hayes, said that in the wake of the commission’s recommendations regarding amending the zoning code to regulate cannabis dispensaries, he will draw up an ordinance formalizing those changes.

He said he expects to bring the ordinance to the village clerk in time for trustees to consider the changes as early as March 2.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker last year signed legislation making recreational use of cannabis by those 21 and over legal. The law went into effect Jan. 1.

The state has placed severe restrictions on how cannabis can be possessed and consumed. Cannabis can’t be possessed in public without being stored in approved packaging, and Illinois residents are limited in how much they can possess.

Cannabis cannot be consumed in public, including inside vehicles, at all. Private property owners also have the ability to prohibit onsite consumption of cannabis by tenants.

Anyone violating those restrictions faces possible fines or even criminal charges.