Buffalo Grove likely to allow sale of recreational marijuana

Buffalo Grove opposed the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Illinois, but now that it's a done deal, town leaders are moving toward allowing its sale in the village.

A majority of village trustees Monday said they would oppose a ban on the retail sale of marijuana after its use becomes legal for adults on Jan. 1.

Only Trustee David Weidenfeld, joined by a few members of the public, spoke in favor of preventing sales.

The matter is now in the hands of the village's planning and zoning commission, which, with public input, will recommend where in town sales should be permitted. Possible recommendations could include limiting sales to businesses along state roads or in industrial areas, allowing a maximum of two retailers in the village, and barring businesses within 1,000 feet of schools, child care facilities and group homes.

The village board will make the final decision.

Deputy Village Manager Christopher Stilling noted that the village already has a medical cannabis dispensary that has operated well since opening in 2015. PDI Medical, 1623 Barclay Blvd., is one of 55 medical cannabis license holders in the state.

Recreational marijuana will exist in Buffalo Grove whether the village allows sales or not, because the village cannot regulate private possession or consumption, Stilling added.

The village would pursue a 3% retailer occupation tax on the sale of recreational cannabis, as well as other related taxes. Stilling said Buffalo Grove could, by a conservative estimate, rake in $300,000 to $400,000 a year in new revenue.

Trustees who support allowing marijuana sales say it's better to have the money spent in Buffalo Grove than in surrounding suburbs.

"The tax revenue is there. I would rather our residents purchase, or other people purchase, it from within the village from a vendor who we have experience with, who runs a class act, than send them someplace else," Trustee Andrew Stein said.

Trustee Eric Smith said he sees both sides of the argument, but "we would be doing a disservice to our community to opt out."

Weidenfeld, a longtime volunteer at OMNI Youth Services, which provides substance abuse counseling, denounced the state for legalizing marijuana use.

"The idea that we would want to approve something that incentivizes someone to increase the consumption and use of marijuana ... is to me more than deplorable. It's despicable," he said.

Jamie Epstein, who operates the Stand Strong Coalition devoted to preventing underage drinking and drug use, reminded trustees that the village has taken stands against puppy mills, gun shops and selling cigarettes to 18- to 21-year-olds.

"Sometimes you just have to do the right thing," she said.

Fellow opponent Carson Ezell, a student at Stevenson High School, said allowing sales would hurt public safety and the family friendliness of Buffalo Grove.

"We're going to be seeing a lot of THC-impaired drivers coming into Buffalo Grove," he said. "I don't think that is road traffic that we really want to see in our community."

But Village President Beverly Sussman said that while village leaders tried to discourage legalization by the state, it would be hard to turn down $400,000 in new revenue.

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  Carson Ezell, a Buffalo Grove resident and Stevenson High School student, spoke out Monday against allowing recreational marijuana sales in the village. Steve Zalusky/
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