Batavia mayor: I will never allow recreational marijuana sales
Several residents who spoke during a public forum Tuesday in Batavia expressed support for Mayor Jeffery Schielke's stance against seeking a recreational cannabis license.
The mayor said he will oppose any ordinance to bring a recreational marijuana dispensary to town.
"As mayor of this town," Schielke said, "if (an ordinance is) passed, you will get a veto from me."
While acknowledging the city council could override his veto by a vote of 10 aldermen, he said, "That's the track this is on."
As mayor, Schielke said he tries to keep a handle on what's going on in the area, and "our drug problem may be as bad as it's ever been in Batavia."
The mayor cited visits from families who have faced drug problems and several told him their issues began with marijuana as a gateway drug.
"I will never sign any ordinance for recreational marijuana in the city of Batavia," Schielke said.
In June, Gov. J.B. Pritzker made it legal to sell cannabis to adults in Illinois beginning on Jan. 1, 2020.
According to city documents, 47 adult-use licenses for dispensaries in Cook and surrounding counties will be issued for operation in 2020. An additional 110 licenses will be issued in 2021.
Batavia's current zoning code allows conditional-use medical cannabis dispensaries, but not recreational-use facilities.
Alderman Martin Callahan said the discussion is not about the legalization of cannabis because, by state law, marijuana use will be allowed in the community.
"Our hands are tied," he said.
But before continuing, he asked for a show of hands by the aldermen to determine if it was worthwhile to have the discussion, since it would take at least 10 of them to override the mayor's promised veto.
The discussion ultimately ended with a decision not to rush a decision.
"There will be no vote tonight, no vote next week, there's nothing pressing." Callahan said.
"There's no rush to jump into this," Alderman Scott Salvati said.
Many of the residents who spoke appeared to be opposed to a dispensary for recreational-use marijuana, with many speaking about the dangers and effect of drug use.
Rev. Jim Parker from Holy Cross Catholic Church in Batavia praised the mayor's stance and said the town needs to do more research before making a moral decision about allowing a dispensary.
"Legality doesn't equal morality," he said.
But some residents were in favor of a facility.
Batavia resident Lyndsay Hartman, who works as a substance abuse counselor, said the discussion isn't about legalizing marijuana and it shouldn't be a moral issue.
She said there was misinformation presented about the drug and the town should educate its residents.
"What message are we giving people who have substance abuse problems?" she said.