Divided Mundelein board votes to move forward with marijuana sales

A plan that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Mundelein to sell their products to recreational users is moving forward.

After more than three hours of public comment Monday night, trustees voted 4-2 to direct administrators to draft the appropriate amendments to the village's zoning code.

Trustee Erich Schwenk proposed the motion, which was not on the agenda for the evening's meeting. Despite procedural objections from village attorney Kelly Cahill and Mayor Steve Lentz, trustees voted on the proposal.

Schwenk was joined by trustees Kara Lambert, Robin Meier and Kerston Russell. Trustees Ray Semple and Dawn Abernathy cast "no" votes. Abernathy, who was out of town due to a family matter, participated by phone.

There was little debate.

Mayor Steve Lentz said stemming drug addiction and drug-related deaths has been a priority during his tenure, and it would be wrong to urge kids to say no to drugs but then allow recreational marijuana sales.

Abernathy, who has been public about a daughter's battle with drug addiction, spoke against allowing recreational sales in town while affirming support for medical marijuana sales. She said allowing recreational sales is contrary to Mundelein's family-friendly image.

She also said the village should be cutting spending rather than raising more tax revenue through marijuana sales.

Moments later, Abernathy drew the audience's ire when she noted that if the proposal progresses, Mundelein would join Waukegan and North Chicago as communities where marijuana is available.

"That is the company that we're going to be keeping," she said.

Abernathy's remark led to groans, boos and cries of "racist" and "that's terrible" from the audience. Both those communities have large minority populations, and neither city's leaders have approved recreational sales.

When asked to clarify her comment Tuesday, Abernathy said she has spoken with representatives from both cities and expects they will allow recreational sales.

"We often hear from (our) residents they want to be more like Libertyville, Vernon Hills and Grayslake. Those villages are leaning toward opting out," Abernathy said. "There was absolutely nothing racist in my comment."

No other trustees shared their opinions of the proposal or the new law.

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

Sales will be allowed at state-licensed dispensaries. Individual communities, however, can restrict or ban cannabis-related businesses.

Only one medical marijuana facility operates in Mundelein. The Clinic Mundelein, 1325 Armour Blvd., opened in 2015 and this summer became one of the first businesses in Illinois to get a state license for recreational sales.

The Clinic is owned by a Chicago company called Green Thumb Industries. In a statement issued Tuesday morning, a spokeswoman said the company looks forward to "bringing additional jobs and tax revenue to Mundelein."

Monday's vote followed comments from dozens of Mundelein residents and other people on both sides of the issue.

The village board will discuss the proposal further during a committee-of-the-whole meeting set for 6 p.m. Oct. 14, at village hall, 300 Plaza Circle.

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The Clinic Mundelein is one of several medical marijuana dispensaries operating in Lake County. Its parent company has acquired a license for recreational sales there. Daily Herald File Photo, 2015
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