Wauconda officials open to local marijuana dispensaries

With the legalization of marijuana sales, possession and use in Illinois just months away, Wauconda trustees say they're open to allowing cannabis stores in town.

But officials have some big questions, including how such businesses should be regulated and where they should be located - as well as whether residents support inviting dispensaries to town.

The village board's economic development committee held an initial discussion of the controversial topic Tuesday night at village hall. No decisions were made.

Committee leader Tim Howe said the legalization of marijuana shops beyond medical purposes is a chance to attract new businesses - and new revenue from sales and occupancy taxes.

Based on data from other states that have legalized marijuana sales, Howe estimated a single shop could yield $60,000 to $80,000 annually in extra cash for Wauconda.

"That's not a huge amount of money, but it ain't nothing," Howe said.

As of Jan. 1, 2020, anyone 21 or older can possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate and 500 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

Individual communities, however, can restrict or ban cannabis sales.

Towns are lining up on both sides of the issue.

A majority of Buffalo Grove trustees support allowing recreational marijuana sales, and officials in South Elgin and Elburn have said having one marijuana retail store in town would be OK.

Conversely, Grayslake, Lake Barrington, Naperville and Wheaton officials have banned or plan to ban sales.

Officials in other towns are debating options.

Howe said Wauconda bills itself as a business-friendly community, and he believes that should extend to marijuana operations.

"I'm not in the habit of saying no to a legal, state-approved business," he said.

However, Howe and other committee members said they don't want dispensaries on Main Street or near schools, parks or churches.

"The question is, how far away," Howe said.

Village officials could limit dispensaries to specific commercial zones, Howe said. They also could require would-be operators to apply for village permits, rather than allowing any entrepreneur to open a business.

Trustee Adam Schlick asked if the businesses need to be heavily regulated, are they really worth having in town.

Despite the committee's general support, Howe said strong public opposition would force officials to consider taking the opposite approach.

Even so, Howe noted legal marijuana use is coming to Wauconda - regardless of whether dispensaries open in town.

"Do we want to get revenue off it?" he asked.

Applications for state retail licenses will be available starting Oct. 1. Wauconda could implement a limited moratorium to give officials time to draft regulations, Village Administrator Kevin Timony said.

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