Naperville looking at three different options with marijuana sales

With two businesses interested in operating recreational marijuana dispensaries in Naperville, city officials are ready to take the first step in discussions about allowing or prohibiting local sales.

City council members have given themselves three options to start deciding whether to allow businesses operating under the state's Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which will be effective Jan. 1. The council could:

• Move toward allowing sales by asking staff members to work on zoning regulations to govern the number, hours and locations of potential shops.

• Move toward prohibiting sales by directing staff members to prepare the documentation necessary to opt out of the retail portion of the law.

• Conduct a community survey first to gauge public opinion.

Council members are set to consider the options at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the municipal center at 400 S. Eagle St.

They're also expected to hear from a representative of dispensary chain Grassroots Cannabis, who told the city he plans to appear to ask permission to open a store in town.

Peyton Hurst with Grassroots Cannabis emailed City Clerk Pam Gallahue July 2 stating his company's intention to "petition Naperville to be able to open a recreational cannabis dispensary." Hurst did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

According to a city memo, Grassroots Cannabis would seek a location on Route 59 to add to the sites in Deerfield, Litchfield, Mokena and Morris where it already sells medical marijuana.

The memo also says Naperville's medical dispensary 3C Compassionate Care Center, which is operated by the national Green Thumb Industries, plans to begin selling recreational products at its store on Quincy Avenue and to use a secondary license to open a separate recreational dispensary.

Municipalities across the state can choose whether to allow or prohibit stores selling marijuana for use by adults 21 and older, but towns cannot restrict possession. Discussions about sales are under way across the region, including in Bartlett, Lincolnshire, Oak Brook and South Elgin.

Towns that allow sales can tack on a tax of up to 3 percent and stand to receive additional sales taxes as well.

In Naperville, 360 Youth Services is compiling research about marijuana use for council members' information, said Karen Jarczyk, prevention director. Decision-makers are balancing many factors as they weigh marijuana sales, Jarczyk said, including tax revenue, competition with nearby communities and the potential for increased use by teens or increased problematic use by adults.

One fact Jarczyk said her organization is likely to share is that marijuana can be addictive, but rates of addiction vary based on age of first use. Among people who begin using as adults, 11 percent develop an addiction, according to research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institutes of Health. But among those who begin using as teens, 17 percent eventually become addicted, the research found.

Jarczyk said she'll keep her opinion out of the discussion of whether pot sales should be authorized in Naperville.

"The community is smart enough to figure it out. And it's not our role," she said. "Our role is really just to provide education."

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