Aurora begins process to consider recreational marijuana sales
Aurora aldermen could decide next month if recreational marijuana can be sold in the city.
But first, they need to determine whether to schedule a public hearing on possible revisions to Aurora's zoning ordinance. They also need to consider an ordinance amendment that allows the city to be prepared to accept a tax on recreational marijuana sales.
The city council is expected to vote on both preliminary steps next week.
Aurora officials are considering whether to allow businesses to sell marijuana under Illinois' Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which will make recreational use and possession by adults legal across the state beginning Jan. 1.
Mayor Richard Irvin said Tuesday that the city has done "extensive research on the matter in preparation of presenting comprehensive details to the Aurora City Council and the general public."
Aurora's zoning ordinance would need to be revised in order for the city to participate in the sale of adult recreational cannabis. The city council could schedule an Oct. 2 public hearing to consider those changes.
The other decision the city council needs to make is whether to adopt a cannabis retail tax.
As part of the state law, towns that permit recreational marijuana sales are allowed to place local sales taxes of up to 3% on those sales.
Martin Lyons, Aurora's chief financial officer, said it's been recommended that the city impose a 2% tax.
He said there are many reasons for that suggestion. One is because the city already receives a 1% state sales tax and a 1.25% home-rule sales tax.
Having the city impose a total sales tax of 4.25% would keep Aurora competitive with surrounding towns that aren't home rule.
Lyons said Aurora wants a competitive sales tax rate to attract "quality" dispensaries.
"We want someone that's going to provide a great operation that is operated in a safe and responsible manner," he said.
A lower sales tax rate also would give a dispensary owner "a chance to put dollars into the operation."
If Aurora allows recreational marijuana sales, it's estimated the city could collect $200,000 to $600,000 a year in additional tax revenue, officials said.
City officials say the state has advised all municipalities to adopt a local ordinance related to the tax by Oct. 1. Then they would be eligible for the collection of the tax by the state effective Jan 1.
However, they stress that adopting a tax ordinance doesn't obligate the city to allow recreational marijuana sales.
A final vote by the city council to allow or prohibit sales of recreational marijuana is expected to happen on Oct. 22.