More suburbs starting to say 'yes' to pot sales

Discussions about whether to allow recreational marijuana sales in the suburbs have ramped up in the last two weeks, and more suburbs are leaning in favor after early negativity this summer.

Elburn has voted to allow marijuana sales, and village boards in South Elgin, Pingree Grove and East Dundee plan to do the same after they decide on zoning regulations.

Arlington Heights, Elgin, Buffalo Grove, Lake in the Hills, St. Charles, Bartlett, Lombard, North Aurora, Island Lake and Wauconda have leaned toward "yes" to sales in their discussions so far.

On the other end of the spectrum are Naperville, Long Grove, Grayslake and Lake Zurich, which have voted to ban sales.

Park Ridge, Bloomingdale, Lake Barrington, Libertyville, Wheaton, Sugar Grove and Lisle leaned toward bans in preliminary discussions. The mayor of Batavia said that if the city council votes "yes," he will issue a veto, although the city council could override it.

The towns are part of an evolving scorecard of discussions taking place in the suburbs as Illinois becomes the 11th state to legalize consumption of recreational marijuana by people age 21 and over starting Jan. 1. The state will issue licenses for pot shops, or "dispensaries," and local governments can decide where and how many shops to allow, or whether to ban sales altogether.

Some towns are surveying residents' opinions. Sugar Grove's survey got 695 responses, with 36.1% strongly against and 28.9% strongly in favor of pot shops in town. Gurnee has an open online survey but nonresidents have been responding, so the village will run an Oct. 7 phone survey only for residents signed up on the village system, said Jack Linehan, assistant to the village administrator.

Some towns have yet to substantially tackle the topic. Geneva and Mundelein will discuss it today, the same day the mayor of Prospect Heights plans to appoint a committee to study the issue. Vernon Hills will hold a special committee-of-the-whole meeting Tuesday, and Schaumburg will do the same Wednesday.

The issue is complex and the decision not necessarily easy, suburban officials say. Municipal and county staff members have been researching and giving detailed public presentations about the state's 610-page Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.

Hanover Park had a 90-minute discussion, reaching no conclusion. Antioch held a special, two-hour informational meeting, with many urging the village board to ban marijuana sales, and no action was taken. Lisle had a three-hour or so discussion with presentations from experts.

Conversely, Elburn acted swiftly. The village board held its first marijuana discussion in early June, before the bill was signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. After a recommendation by the planning commission, the board voted Monday to allow one special use permit for a marijuana shop in a business or commercial manufacturing district, Village Administrator John Nevenhoven said. One such permit will be allowed for every 10,000 residents in Elburn - the village has about 6,500 residents.

Most suburbs are considering limiting pots shops to certain areas or with special use permits, or both. Island Lake would allow sales in business and industrial zones, while Bartlett would allow them only in business parks. Lombard would allow sales in office or industrial areas as well as on Roosevelt Road, and with a permit in the downtown and other areas. North Aurora is considering limiting sales to nonresidential areas. Others are looking at limiting the number of dispensaries: South Elgin would allow only one, like Elburn.

There's also the question of whether to allow marijuana "lounges," or places where people can consume marijuana on premises. Elgin and South Elgin don't want lounges, but East Dundee is OK with them.

The law allows municipalities to impose a local tax of up to 3% on marijuana sales. Several suburbs, including Lombard and St. Charles, indicated they want to capitalize on that.

Reports of a Sept. 30 deadline for counties and municipalities to decide whether to impose marijuana sales taxes are incorrect, state officials said.

An Oct. 1 deadline normally would apply if sales taxes were to go into effect Jan. 1, said Sam Salustro, public information officer for the Illinois Department of Revenue.

But the state bill says the sales tax will take effect Sept. 1, and local ordinances must be adopted and filed with the Illinois Department of Revenue before June 1, Salustro said.

There are no plans by the Pritzker administration to impose any deadlines for municipalities to opt out of marijuana sales, press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh said.

• Daily Herald staff writers Marie Wilson, Eric Peterson, Mick Zawislak, Susan Sarkauskas, Russell Lissau, Lauren Rohr, Robert Sanchez and Chris Placek contributed to this report.

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