St. Charles officials to debate recreational pot sales at Monday meeting

There's no question the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Illinois will affect St. Charles policies and resources, city leaders say.

What's up for debate is whether businesses should be allowed to sell cannabis within municipal boundaries when the new state law goes into effect Jan. 1.

Aldermen expect to begin tackling that issue Monday night.

Initial discussions began Aug. 5 with an overview from city staff members on how the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act could impact their departments.

Police officers, for example, will have to change the way they handle marijuana-related cases, officials said. However, allowing recreational marijuana sales could generate additional tax revenue to help offset that burden.

Acting as the government operations committee, aldermen asked questions of staff and heard comments from several residents, who were split on whether sales should be allowed. The committee has not yet begun publicly debating its stance.

"We're looking for guidance on whether to permit or ban recreational sales in a controlled environment," city Administrator Mark Koenen said. "I see (Monday's meeting) as a continuation of the conversation."

Under the new state law, residents 21 and older can possess up to 30 grams of the cannabis flower, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate, and 500 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

Though municipalities can't limit recreational marijuana use in their towns, the legislation gives them options for regulating the zoning of dispensaries and lounges. St. Charles officials can decide when, where and how many are allowed to operate, or can choose to completely ban sales.

Towns that choose to permit cannabis sales can impose a tax of up to 3%, plus any other local sales taxes.

Alderman Bill Turner has indicated his desire for the committee to make a formal recommendation Monday. "I don't want to prolong this," he said.

Alderman Maureen Lewis, however, said she wants to ensure the group has plenty of time to ask questions and discuss the topic thoroughly.

The sooner a decision is made, the better, Koenen said.

If the city wants to ban sales, the process will be straightforward, he said. But if they choose to allow sales, the proposed ordinances would have to go through the zoning process, which includes giving adequate notice to residents, holding a public hearing before the plan commission and additional approvals at the committee and city council levels.

"Effectively, things need to be done by mid-November," Koenen said. "It takes time to do it right."

Monday's discussion is expected to take place during the government operations committee meeting, which is held after the 7 p.m. city council meeting at 2 E. Main St.

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