DuPage County taking more time to consider marijuana sales

DuPage County Board members won't vote on whether to allow recreational marijuana sales in unincorporated areas until they hear from experts about law enforcement, health and other issues related to the decision.

The county board on Tuesday talked about whether to allow businesses to sell marijuana under Illinois' Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which will make recreational use and possession by adults legal beginning Jan. 1.

But after nearly an hour of discussion, board Chairman Dan Cronin said there wasn't consensus to decide if the county should opt out of the retail portion of the state law.

"I think there's a consensus to gather more information," Cronin said. "We haven't really listened and heard from the law enforcement community or the public health community leaders."

The delay also gives officials time to calculate the new tax revenue that could be generated for the county. If DuPage allows cannabis to be sold in unincorporated areas, it can place a county local sales tax of up to 3.75% on the sales.

Some board members already have strong opinions on what the county should do.

Three Democrats - Ashley Selmon of Addison, Sadia Covert of Naperville and Sheila Rutledge of West Chicago - have called on DuPage to allow the sale of recreational cannabis in unincorporated areas.

"I understand that there are a lot of people that think this is a large boogeyman," Rutledge said. "But the facts are just not backing that up."

Board member Tim Elliott urged the county to opt out.

"To me, it's not a question of money," the Glen Ellyn Republican said. "It's about what's the right thing to do for our citizens."

Elliott said it's possible that state lawmakers will make changes to the cannabis law during the fall veto session. For example, the number of licenses statewide could be increased, he said.

"So I would prefer to see us opt out, at least in the short-term, to see what our municipalities do and, frankly, to see what Springfield does," Elliott said.

Board member Pete DiCianni said he doesn't want the county make a decision that would push municipalities to allow recreational marijuana sales.

"I'd like to see more of a cautious wait-and-see opt out," the Elmhurst Republican said.

Several board members said they need more information before making a decision.

"I just think we should really not rush this decision," said Julie Renehan, a Hinsdale Democrat.

If the sale of recreational cannabis is allowed, the board will have to decide if recreational pot businesses should have less restrictive zoning requirements than medical cannabis businesses.

In unincorporated DuPage, medical cannabis dispensaries must be located at least 1,000 feet from the property line of a school, day care facility or area zoned for residential use.

Officials said there are three areas in the unincorporated DuPage where a recreational marijuana dispensary could be located if the same zoning restrictions for medical marijuana businesses were used.

But one of the areas is near Aurora and Metea Valley High School.

"I am stunned to see that we would even contemplate allowing zoning in an area that close to a high school, whether the regulations are there or not," said board member Robert Larsen, a Wheaton Republican. "I think that's a big mistake, and I hope we don't go that route."

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