Northbrook fire chief not so concerned about cannabis dispensaries in village as police chief: ‘This may attract ... a criminal act’

Chicago Tribune 1 month ago

While the Northbrook fire chief says he doesn’t foresee any particular safety concerns with cannabis dispensaries should they be allowed in the village in the coming months, the police chief says the businesses could potentially draw crime to the area.

“The dispensary will offer for sale a desired product that is just now undergoing a transition from an underground, illegal distribution system to a state sanctioned commercial sale model,” Northbrook Police Department Chief Roger Adkins wrote in a letter to village staff. “This may attract those included to commit a criminal act.”

Starting Jan. 1, it will be legal for some adults age 21 and older to possess, buy and consume up to 30 grams of cannabis, known commonly as marijuana. While villages will not be able to outlaw use of the drug, they are able to allow – or prohibit – cannabis-related businesses within their borders.

Northbrook village staff had asked the fire and police leaders to provide their take on the potential impact to their departments should recreational cannabis businesses be allowed in the village Their comments came ahead of the Plan Commission meeting held Oct. 1.

Fire Chief Andrew Carlson wrote in his memo to village staff that he would not anticipate impact to his department “over and above” other small retail businesses, according to village documents.

“Dispensaries are not exceptionally large, complex, or hazardous occupancies and do not pose fire and life safety concerns that exceed those that would be expected in other similar occupancies,” Carlson wrote.

The fire chief said dispensaries have to comply with the same building and fire codes as other business, which include emergency exits and sprinkler systems.

His department provides fire and emergency medical services to areas outside Northbrook village limits, including parts of Deerfield as part of the contract with Northbrook Rural Fire Protection District, Carlson wrote.

“A medical cannabis dispensary has existed in this coverage area for over three years without a single emergency or non-emergency call for service,” Carlson wrote, adding that he has “not heard” of any fire or emergency medical issues with dispensaries in the area.

Adkins recommends that security systems be reviewed and said they should include alarms, video surveillance, vault or safes and closed or locked display cases. How cannabis products are moved and stored and how cash is handled should also be reviewed, Adkins wrote.

People selling cannabis illegally as a “secondary sale” near the dispensary would also be a concern for the police department, Adkins wrote, as would driver impairment. The police chief said field sobriety tests for drivers under the influence of cannabis are different than the ones for alcohol, and there’s no portable testing device to determine impairment levels.

Adkins predicted in his memo that courts may require officers to receive additional certifications and training for impairment recognition that is “time intensive, costly that would take several years to complete and [is an] unfunded burden.”

Another concern was “the odor that will emanate from the product and potentially the facility.” The plan commission recommended prohibiting on-premises consumption in the draft resolution they approved at the Tuesday meeting. Advertising promoting marijuana use, and vehicle and pedestrian traffic near the location, were also among Adkins’ concerns.

“It’s all about public safety,” the police chief said.

Twitter: @annakreports

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