Park Ridge leaning toward ban on recreational marijuana sales

Recreational marijuana use will be legal for adults in Illinois on Jan. 1, but you may not be able to buy it in Park Ridge.

The Park Ridge City Council is expected to vote Sept, 23 on an ordinance banning recreational marijuana sales within city limits for a yet-to-be-determined period of time.

"I have heard from numerous constituents in my ward who do not approve or support the sale of recreational cannabis in Park Ridge," Fourth Ward Alderman Roger Shubert said.

"I also have personal concerns about the long-term effects of marijuana, the public safety concerns regarding enforcement, and the 'rosy' projections of revenues that will follow from these establishments being legalized both at the state and municipal level," Shubert added. "I think one only has to look to Colorado and California for mixed reviews and results after those states legalized marijuana."

Communities across the area are debating how to respond to marijuana legalization. Under state law, municipalities cannot ban use or possession of marijuana within their jurisdictions, but can outlaw sales or place restrictions on the number of sellers and where they can be located. Towns that allow sales can impose a 3% tax on top of existing sales taxes.

A ban in Park Ridge would follow similar moves by Naperville, Bloomingdale, Grayslake and other suburbs. Buffalo Grove and South Elgin leaders have indicated they'll likely allow marijuana sales, while Arlington Heights, Des Plaines, St. Charles and other communities remain undecided.

Council members this month discussed establishing a short-term ban and potentially lifting it after studying its impacts, but held off on a final decision.

"I'm still forming my opinions based on public input," Second Ward Alderman Maureen Hartwig said.

Others, however, say the community would support a ban.

"Park Ridge historically has been a very conservative community," Third Ward Alderman Gail Wilkening said. "Personally I don't believe that (recreational marijuana) would be the tremendous financial windfall for the city that some might think."

The council also discussed the possibility of a nonbinding referendum on the matter, to be presented to voters next year.

"Ideally, we would be able to hold a referendum and let the residents have a true say, but the timeline of this rollout doesn't give us that luxury," First Ward Alderman John Moran said. "The first available election to hold a referendum will be this spring; the process of state license approval and facility build out needs to begin much sooner.

"This is new territory for us and the subject was not something any of the city council members had to campaign on," Moran added. "This is why a referendum would be incredibly helpful."

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