Arlington Heights board open to allowing pot sales

A majority of Arlington Heights village board members said Tuesday they're open to allowing the sale of recreational marijuana within the town's borders.

Board members weighed in for the first time after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation in June legalizing the adult use of marijuana. While municipalities cannot outlaw use or possession, they can ban or restrict sales within their borders before the law takes effect Jan. 1.

Five village trustees on the nine-member elected panel - John Scaletta, Jim Tinaglia, Mary Beth Canty, Bert Rosenberg and Rich Baldino - expressed willingness to allow marijuana sales by dispensaries. Though many also said they want a limit on the number of businesses in town, where they can be located, and that consumption wouldn't be allowed on premises.

"I don't know if I would've voted for legalization in the state of Illinois, but it's here and there's nothing I can do to stop that," Scaletta said. "But what I can do is regulate it here in Arlington Heights, as one of nine."

He and other trustees were concerned consumers could go to other towns to buy marijuana, while Arlington Heights could lose out on a 3% local excise tax, or as much as $600,000 a year, by one estimate.

"I would hate to think one of the communities who decides to go in is going to benefit from all the sales from our town and we're not," Tinaglia said.

Similar discussions have been held by village board and city councils across the suburbs. So far, Naperville, Lake Barrington, Grayslake and Bloomingdale are among those that already have said they won't allow sales. Buffalo Grove, South Elgin and Elburn officials have said they're likely to allow it.

On the opposing side, Mayor Tom Hayes and trustees Tom Schwingbeck and Robin LaBedz noted their philosophical opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana. Hayes said banning the sale would preserve Arlington Heights' image and reputation as a family-oriented community.

"The sale and legalization of recreational marijuana is wrong and should not have been done by our state legislature," Hayes said. "I'm not going to compound a mistake our state legislators made, by preventing it from becoming a further mistake here in the village of Arlington Heights."

Trustee Greg Padovani didn't officially say which way he's leaning, but did say he wants village staff to research how much revenue the village could receive if sales are allowed. That's because the $600,000 estimate "is a number we can't ignore, especially because our residents are being squeezed on so many levels," Padovani said.

That estimate came from officials at PharmaCann LLC, which operates a medical marijuana dispensary inside a 4,200-square-foot strip mall space at 1816 S. Arlington Heights Road in Arlington Heights. They attended the meeting Tuesday night to lobby the board to be allowed to add recreational marijuana sales to their existing business.

Another company seeking to open a dispensary on Dundee Road has also sent a formal letter to village officials.

Officials say they plan to revisit the issue in the fall with more specifics on possible zoning restrictions.

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